Burrowing badgers halt Dutch train services
By Christian Edwards and Rosanne Roobeek, CNN
While other European train services are beset by striking workers, infrastructure costs and extreme weather, Dutch railways are facing a more unusual threat: Badgers.
Badgers are causing railway mayhem in the Netherlands, as they have burrowed under tracks, leaving many passengers facing delays.
The Netherlands is home to about 7,000 badgers. Local media has reported 40 locations across the country where badgers have potentially compromised the railway service, choosing inconvenient locations to build their or setts.
Train traffic has been halted, possibly for weeks, between two major southern cities, Den Bosch and Eindhoven, due to concerns that the badgers’ tunnels have weakened the ground under the tracks, Reuters news agency reported.
“A badger digs his home in sandy soil. That is why they like to settle in a railway embankment,” said a spokesperson in a statement for ProRail, the Dutch government organization that maintains the country’s railway network.
“But they have to get out,” the statement added. “The track is sinking because of the digging. That is not safe for train traffic. That is why there are no trains running between Workum and Stavoren at the moment.”
Workum and Stavoren are in the northern province of Friesland.
On Thursday morning, ProRail “built an artificial stronghold” in Molkwerum, a village located between Workum and Stavoren, as they try to tempt badgers into man-made setts built at a safe distance from the tracks.
ProRail also announced plans to “install a badger-resistant fence several kilometers long” to prevent further encroachments.
But the removal of the badgers will take time. According to Thursday’s statement, the badgers will get “a week of rest” to allow them to migrate to the new setts themselves “under the guidance of an ecologist.”
If the badgers do not migrate unassisted, ProRail announced they will begin excavation works on April 3.
A vet will be present to anesthetize any badgers that remain under the tracks. “These badgers (will) then temporarily taken to a shelter and then returned to the new artificial strongholds next to the railway,” the statement added.
The work will last until April 24. ProRail advised passengers to check travel planners for disruptions before using the rail service.
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