| Wiendelt Steenbergen

In my previous column, I started pondering about how our campus would appear in 2041: bustling, dynamic, a pleasant space for people, plants and animals alike. But now, a new dimension has been added to the equation – an extension to the northern branch of the Betuwe line.


If it is right up to the Port of Rotterdam that would mean that by about 2030, we’ll be sat on the campus, day and night, shaking in the wake of passing goods trains. Now these are only plans, so for the time being the trains just run through my head and that of many others... but that is already unpleasant enough. The quiet that ensues at night once the growl of roaring engines has died down is in danger of disappearing forever. Landscapes and communities are being swallowed up: the railway line is cutting swathes through the Achterhoek, Twekkelo, the Kristalbad and the unique piece of Twente countryside and hamlet located between the campus and Hengelo, before going via Lonnekermeer to finish up at the railway line to Germany.

So, have we gone stark raving mad? I say ‘we’, because all these goods that are being lugged around the world are simply to meet our needs. This plan is a belated yet damaging revival of the ‘more of the same’ principle that should have been put to bed by now: more mobility, more consumption, more stuff, so more roads and railways. The fact that the attempt to widen the motorway through Amelisweert is likely to fail provides a hopeful sign of change. But the Port of Rotterdam still thinks in old-school terms.

They dangle a few carrots in front of us. Somebody working in transport says this will be a good thing for us. Imagine having direct trains between Nijmegen and Twente, and better regional rail transport. In fact, we should see this as an opportunity to transform Twente into an international passenger hub, they say. But of course, this is all nonsense. How many tracks precisely do they want to lay so that they can run all these local trains, express trains and goods trains at the same time? For reviving the ancient local railroad system, it would be better to restore the old tracks: at least they linked up villages and towns, instead of nature reserves and farmland.

So why is all this activist talk included in a university magazine? As a university, we are committed to our region. As Drienerloërs, we need to support the residents of Driene in the fight against the old-fashioned thoughts of people who know how to lobby well and are a dab hand at smooth talking. And it also impacts us, even if the railway line is more than 2.5 km from our Nanolab, as a 2014 study explained, apparently in an attempt to reassure us. But the Nanolab is not our only sensitive location.

Incidentally, I am writing this months before publication. Maybe geopolitical events, further escalations in violence or a different world-view will put the brakes on the global movement of goods – whether that’s by sea or, to be somewhat more poetic, via the New Silk Road that should end at the North Branch.

Stay tuned

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