ZWIJNDRECHT - A fire broke out in a wagon with ethanol at the Kijfhoek shunting yard near Zwijndrecht (alcohol). Because there are more wagons in the immediate vicinity, with unknown content that could potentially explode, it has been decided to evacuate the immediate vicinity. The A16 and N3 are also closed, also to give the emergency services plenty of space.

In the grounds it can be seen that there is one wagon, on the backside, a kind of blowtorch comes. There are many more wagons in the immediate vicinity.


The first report of the fire died 21:39 hour from the traffic post at Kijfhoek. A few minutes later, several local residents also called the fire brigade.

Ten homes in total have been evacuated. The residents are received in the Theater Festino in Zwijndrecht. People within a radius of five kilometers from the fire have received an SMS alert.

"Behind our house we immediately look at the shunting yard", Pieter de Krey told RTV Dordrecht. “One of us who reported that flames were visible from Kijfhoek. We have 112 called and also went to have a look. The fire then rose above the electricity pylons. ”

Ten minutes later, the A16, which is five hundred meters from Kijfhoek as the crow flies, already closed. Within an hour of the start of the fire, Radio and TV Rijnmond were used as a disaster channel.


Little can be said about the cause. The burning wagon may have been damaged after colliding with another wagon. The boiler leaked at its weakest point: the tap. The highly flammable ethanol only needed one spark to ignite. A collision between a number of wagons can certainly cause sparks.

There are hundreds of wagons on the Kijfhoek site, but while extinguishing the fire, the fire brigade was faced with the problem that it is not always clear what is in those wagons.

Most of the attention went to two wagons, where possible LPG (liquid gas) in it, but they were empty and cleansed. It also turned out that wagons with dangerous goods were located on the site in different places than the administration stated.

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Kijfhoek is the largest marshalling yard in the Netherlands with fifty hectares. Trains are assembled on site for their onward journey to the hinterland.

We work with a so-called hill process. Wagons are put on a hill and then get a push. Then the switches are adjusted in this way, that the wagon rolls exactly to the right train. In total Kijfhoek knows 43 dividing tracks.

There are annual 200.000 wagons treated. About one third of those wagons contain hazardous substances.

Hoe ging het verder?

The fire at the Kijfhoek shunting yard was caused by colliding wagons. The wagons had too high a speed during shunting. Two sets of four wagons rolled to their own track at too high a speed. First there was a collision with wagons that were already on the track and then a collision between the two sets., the fire brigade writes in the investigation report about the fire at Kijfhoek.

By the first collision, four wagons roll back towards the hill. The impact with the two sets of four wagons is therefore highest in the second collision. Which is calculated on 30 tot 32 kilometer per uur. The collision deformed boilers and a crane broke.

Research also shows that it was especially the firefighters who arrived first on the scene that it was not easy. They had to climb and clamber over wagons to form a picture of what was going on.

The next morning the signal becomes "fire master". The residual ethanol in the wagon allows the fire service to burn out in a controlled manner. Ongeveer 20 hours after the fire started, the area is released again.

In the days after the fire, ProRail and Keyrail were criticized. Mayor Scholten van Zwijndrecht, for example, wants to know why there is no company fire brigade at Kijfhoek. According to the two carriers, this is not necessary, because the barracks of Zwijndrecht are nearby.

"Did you hear that bang too?"

But much more is wrong. Kijfhoek personnel seem to ignore hundreds of error messages on the site. Hundreds of reports were pushed away prior to the fire, as it turned out during a criminal case against ProRail and Keyrail.

Immediately after the collision between the wagons 14 januari 2011 the hill trial manager asks one of his colleagues "Did you hear a loud bang". The colleague had not heard anything. The fire was discovered a few minutes later.

According to the judiciary, Keyrail and Prorail were not at all concerned about safety on the railway, but only about the distribution of capacity. The hills was a fully automatic system and hardly received any attention.

A fine was each demanded against the two companies 900.000 euro. But they will be fined 100.000 euro. On appeal, another half a ton is added.

The parties involved promise to improve, but even in the years after the fire, it still regularly appears that there are 'ghost wagons' at Kijfhoek, wagons of which it is not immediately clear what is in them.


South Holland South safety region- Multidisciplinary Evaluation Report Incident Kijfhoek

AD – 17-11-2014 – Kijfhoek staff ignored fire error messages

Online Transport – 23–03-2017 – Tons of fine for near-disaster at De Kijfhoek Zwijndrecht shunting yard

Author: Dave Datema

published: 13-01-2021

story number: 161

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