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22 Mar, 2023 15:21

Badgers threaten transport in EU country

The critters have started digging under rail tracks, halting trains and forcing lengthy cancellations in the Netherlands
Badgers threaten transport in EU country

Trains in the southern Netherlands were halted on Tuesday afternoon after it was discovered that badgers had been digging under the tracks, jeopardizing passenger safety, the national operator ProRail announced.

The line connecting the cities of Den Bosch and Boxtel is expected to be out of service for at least a week, according to the company. It explained that the digging means the rails can “subside and then the safety of train traffic can no longer be guaranteed.”

A similar issue arose earlier this month, when badgers burrowed under train tracks near the northern village of Molkwerum, knocking a line out of service until at least next month. 

Badgers are a protected species in the Netherlands, meaning that rail operators need special permission to move or disturb their habitats. ProRail is now in the process of obtaining a permit to relocate the animals, but has complained that the application is taking too long.

ProRail CEO John Voppen has appealed to the authorities to speed up the procedure so that normal rail services can be resumed as soon as possible. 

“I note that we have to suspend train traffic for the second time in a week because badgers undermine a railway track and that it then takes a lot of time to tackle this because we have to get permission from the competent authority," Voppen said.

“In the interests of travelers and carriers, more space is needed to take action more quickly. We are of course in urgent consultation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management about this.”

ProRail’s website states that the repairs include the restoration of the track itself as well as the subsoil. Workers are also suggesting ways to deter badgers from digging into earthen dikes. One of the proposals is to build a sandy hillock, where the badgers could be relocated to dig their homes without disrupting the train service.

However, more measures are needed, the company insists. “The badgers must leave their current burrow. And must not come back there either. Only then can we work on the track to make it safe again,” ProRail said.