Dutch trains endangered by badgers

Dutch trains endangered by badgers

Rail traffic in the Netherlands has been halted on several occasions this week due to badgers undermining railway embankments.

"We will work for the badgers near Molkwerum in Friesland," said ProRail, which operates the railway infrastructure in the Netherlands. "We are going to build an artificial burrow. A badger digs its home in sandy soil. That is why they like to settle in a railway embankment. This is the case at Molkwerum. But they have to leave. The track is sinking because of the excavation work. It is not safe for trains. That is why no trains run between Workum and Stavoren," continues the Dutch national railway infrastructure operator.

A few days later, other towns were added. Train traffic between Den Bosch and Boxtel was stopped at around 13:00 on 21 March. This was because badgers had undermined the track near Esch, which also affected rail freight: "The track can sag and the safety of train traffic can no longer be guaranteed. It will be very inconvenient for passengers and hauliers, but there is no other way. We are doing all we can to get it running again as soon as possible," the company said.

In a densely populated country, the natural space for 7,000 badgers is limited. The animals often dig their homes under relatively 'quiet' railway embankments, which are away from people and also slightly elevated to prevent flooding, writes The Guardian.

The Dutch authorities have reported a total of 40 sites where the railway line is potentially at risk. In Friesland, the railway network operator ProRail is therefore building an artificial settlement to lure the badgers to a safer place.

Commenting on the situation, John Voppen, CEO of ProRail, said: "I note that this is the second time in a week that we have had to stop trains because badgers have undermined a railway line, and that it then takes a long time to deal with it because we have to get permission from the relevant authority. What we really need, in the interests of passengers and hauliers, is more leeway to act more quickly. We are, of course, in urgent talks with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management about this.

Volunteers are ready to help injured animals if officials decide to dig up badger settlements. They say this badger activity could continue into the summer season. 

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