Railroad manager ProRail was granted permission to move a colony of badgers away from a section of track near Molkwerum, Friesland. Trains have been out of service between Leeuwarden and Stavoren since March 13 because of a large badger den, or sett, that the animals dug under the railroad.
The European badger is a protected species. Because of that, the process of removing the badgers had to first be evaluated by experts before the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) could grant permission to ProRail to take these measures.
Last weekend, the railroad infrastructure firm started building an artificial sett for the badgers. In the vicinity of the current habitat, there is a mountain of soil in which the animals must be able to use to dig to their heart’s content. The idea is that the badgers will feel at home there instead of under the track.
Grass has also been mowed, and mesh has been installed on the railway embankment to make the area less attractive to badgers. Furthermore, one-way doors were placed at the end of the corridors that the badgers have dug. As a result, the animals can leave their sett, but can no longer enter it, according to ProRail.
The route in Friesland is not the only one where badgers are disrupting train traffic. The animals have also caused problems in Esch, Noord-Brabant. Trains will not run between Den Bosch and Boxtel until at least Tuesday, but the stoppage could continue for much longer. There is a risk of the track sinking into a badger sett, and ProRail said the safety of rail traffic can no longer be guaranteed. Passengers have to detour via Tilburg, and can make use of a replacement bus service, but with an extended travel time of up to one additional hour.
ProRail is still waiting for permission to tackle the problem in Esch, as well. In anticipation of this, preparatory work began on Thursday morning under the watchful eye of ecologists. The grass was also mowed there and one-way doors were placed at the end of the corridors that the badgers have dug.
ProRail previously said that there are a total of about forty locations in the Netherlands where badgers live in the vicinity of the railroad. In the future, this may again cause consequences to the stability of the track, and subsequently to train traffic.