Leaves on the tracks, signal failures and strikes can all cause train delay headaches, but commuters in the Netherlands are facing railway havoc caused by badgers burrowing under the lines, with authorities struggling to tempt the protected animals out.
In the densely populated country, there is limited natural space for the country’s 7,000 badgers. They often dig out their homes, or setts, under relatively “quiet” train embankments, which are ideally situated away from people and also slightly raised, which prevents the sett from flooding.
The Netherlands has recently reported 40 locations where the railway track is potentially compromised. In Friesland, rail network manager ProRail is building an artificial sett to tempt the protected species to a safer spot.
“The area around the track is clearly an attractive environment for badgers because the embankment is made from sand, where badgers love to build their setts,” ProRail spokesperson Aldert Baas told the Guardian.
“Very few people come by, which suits the shy badger, and it is often a raised part of the landscape … Friesland is as flat as a pancake.”
ProRail announced this week that trains had been stopped between Den Bosch and Boxtel in the south – also affecting goods transport – because a sett under the rails at Esch means the line is unsafe.
“For the second time in a week, we need to stop train traffic because badgers are digging under a railway line, which takes a lot of time to tackle because we need to get permission from the proper authorities,” announced John Voppen, ProRail’s chief executive.
In Esch, volunteers from the badger work group Dassenwerkgroep Brabant are ready to assist any wounded animals if the authorities do dig up the sett. But board member Karin Derikx believes the time is not yet right.
“They have waited too long,” she said. “In the winter, badgers are quieter and in the spring, they do a spring clean and dig more. That’s why there’s suddenly an alarm.
“Their maternity period goes until July. We understand the needs of the train [operators], but this is just the wrong time of year.”