In recent years, especially in the Randstad, more and more light rail connections have been established. Think of the RandstadRail between The Hague and Rotterdam or the recently opened Hoekselijn towards Hoek van Holland and the Uithoflijn in Utrecht. Is this form of public transport the future? NU.nl talks about it with Niels van Oort, public transport expert of the Smart Public Transport Lab at TU Delft.
Although not all projects came about as smoothly and were even referred to the waste bin elsewhere – the RijnGouwelijn fell in South Holland and the RegioTram project fell in Groningen – the interest in and interest in light rail remained undiminished.
“Light rail is indeed again prominent on the agenda and this form of public transport is certainly promising, provided that projects are well designed. Light rail should not be a goal in itself, but should be seen as part of a wide range of mobility solutions,” says public transport expert Van Oort. In recent years he has studied dozens of light rail projects from all over the world.
According to Van Oort, Light Rail can contribute to effective mobility, local economic development and a better environment. This form of public transport will not lure everyone out of the car, but with a high-quality light rail connection a movement in that direction can in any case be started.
The Uithoflijn was recently taken into use in Utrecht.
‘Faster train does not automatically mean shorter travel time’
Light rail as a form of public transport is exactly in between train, tram and metro. Depending on the situation, light rail offers the benefits of at least two out of three. According to Van Oort, the RandstadRail is the perfect example of light rail, since it connects the region with the city.
“It is a fast connection between the cities, after which the line in the city mixes with other traffic and connects to other connections. The hybrid character of the light rail is the great force. It brings people further into the city than the central station ”
As far as Van Oort is concerned, light rail is no better or worse than the train. It is simply a different kind of connection. “The train is useful for longer distances between main stations, but the fact that a train runs faster does not always mean a shorter total travel time.”
A train runs faster, but that sometimes does not matter for the travel time. (Photo: Pro Shots)
‘Municipalities must build smart with an eye on light rail’
However, Light Rail is not a guarantee of success. In fact, the recently completed projects all had to deal with serious start-up problems. Nevertheless, with regard to Van Oort, there are a number of conditions that a high-quality light rail connection must meet.
On the transport side, that is first and foremost a high frequency of journeys, so that you hardly have to wait. In addition, the line must be fast and reliable. Good stops and modern vehicles also help.
In addition, attention must be paid to the connection between living and working. “A light rail route usually has fewer stops, which means that municipalities must build smartly so that people can get to those stops well and easily,” says Van Oort.
As far as he is concerned, public transport must therefore be considered in its entirety. It is not only about transport itself, but also about spatial planning and transport to and from the stations.
The locations of stations must be carefully considered. (Photo: Uithoflijn.nl)
‘Big hole in the planning’
So far, there seems to be a bright future for light rail in the Netherlands. In any case, there is no shortage of attention.
There are now plans on the table for a light rail connection to Scheveningen, the extension of the North / South line to Schiphol and a network in the Eindhoven region. However, we will have to be patient when it comes to such new connections.
“Although there are many ideas, the projects are not there yet. There is a gap in the planning in that sense. Since light rail is still quite complicated from a technical point of view, it will take a relatively long time to construct it. to count. ”