Evaluation Basisnet: current system does not ensure sustainable balance

In the Netherlands, large quantities of hazardous substances are transported daily by water, rail and road. These hazardous substances are important raw materials for products we use regularly, such as cosmetics, medicines, fuels, detergents, paints and plastics. However, transporting hazardous substances carries risks.

In incidents, these substances can (despite all safety requirements) be released, ignite or, in the worst case, even explode. The Basisnet focuses on minimising the chances of an accident and its consequences.

Ecorys conducted an evaluation of the Basisnet in collaboration with the KWINK Group and Erasmus University. Our evaluation aimed to provide an independent opinion on the operation of the current Basisnet and the proposed new Robuust Basisnet. In the evaluation, we examined whether the Basisnet provided the intended sustainable balance between the transport of hazardous substances, spatial development and safety. Another question here was whether the legal instruments proved useful and robust in monitoring this balance.


The Basisnet is the nationally designated infrastructure network (road, inland waterway and rail) for the through transport of hazardous substances. Limits have been set on the risks of transporting hazardous substances along the transport routes belonging to the Basisnet. This is done by so-called risk ceilings. These risk ceilings, combined with spatial restrictions, must provide local residents with a basic level of protection. That is, the risk of one person dying as a direct result of an accident involving hazardous substances should not exceed once in a million years.

Every year, the extent and risks of hazardous materials transport are calculated and whether these risks have remained within the established risk ceilings. The Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment reports the results to the House of Representatives annually.

Key findings

Our evaluation shows that the Basisnet has not achieved the intended sustainable balance between transport, spatial development and safety. This is due to shortcomings in the existing system and to assumptions behind its operation that in practice turned out differently than expected.

When the Basisnet was developed, it was expected that the risk ceilings would continue to be sufficient to accommodate the expected growth in the transport volume of hazardous substances. For the Basisnet Rail in particular, this turned out not to be the case and the risk ceilings were over- and under-exceeded even before the regulation came into force. The steering effect of the risk ceilings on transport flows turned out in practice to be less than expected when the Basisnet was designed.

Our legal analysis also shows that the current Basisnet Act does not provide the necessary legal guidance for the minister to comply with the standard. The current law also does not provide sufficient guidance for infrastructure managers or regulators to ensure that risk ceilings are respected.


The State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW) indicated in a parliamentary letter that our evaluation confirms earlier conclusions about the functioning of the current system, underlining the importance of introducing a renewed Robuust Basisnet. The new Robuust Basisnet is not based on controlling transport flows via risk ceilings, but on risk management. The State Secretary will include the recommendations from the evaluation study in the further elaboration of the system of the renewed (robust) Basisnet.

For more information, read our full report here.

9 November 2023

3 minute read