A historic railway line shuttling British passengers from the Harwich ferry to destinations further afield in Europe has seen its last day of service on the 31st of March.
 

The Hook of Holland to Rotterdam railway line has seen its last train service on Friday the 31st of March before it is being converted into a local metro line.

The Hook of Holland Haven railway station is the historic arrival point of ferries from Harwich, with thousands of passengers taking trains at the ferry terminal's railway station to destinations all over the Netherlands and further afield in Germany and other European countries.

Yet tonight shortly after 01:00am, the last train will drive on the more-than 125-year-old train line.

Gerard van Dijk is the train driver assigned to the last ride, and he recalls how on the 29th of September 2010 he let his brother Piet ride along in the cabin before taking the ferry to Harwich.

He said: "At the Hook of Holland we said goodbye and I wished him a safe journey. Yet I would not see him back alive, my brother died in Harwich from acute heart failure."

For van Dijk, who said he has driven the train "at least a thousand times" it will therefore be an emotional last ride.

He said: "I think lots of people are going to miss the railway line."

For British travellers and Dutch commuters a lot will change, as the next six months sees a bus replacement service while the railway line is being converted into a Rotterdam metro service.

From 1st September 2017 new frequent metro trains are due to start running, initially between Hook of Holland and Schiedam Centrum, with the line being extended into the city of Rotterdam in 2018.

British train expert Mark Smith, the man behind the popular Seat61 railway website, is sad to see the line closing down but thinks the Harwich to Hook ferry is still an excellent option for British travellers going to mainland Europe.

He said: "In all honesty I do not think this will make much difference. The metro may be more frequent than the train - although it is a shame it will not connect to the main transport hub, Rotterdam Centraal."

"Passengers will have to change at Schiedam for Den Haag and Amsterdam, and in due course at Rotterdam Alexander for Utrecht and then Germany."

"I am glad to say that through ticketing will be maintained so SailRail tickets from London to Amsterdam or Any Dutch station will be unaffected, and even InterRail passes will still be valid on the Hook - Rotterdam metro route."

Yet it is a far cry from the past century, when British travellers arriving at Hook of Holland could take a direct intercity train to destinations including Berlin or even as far as Russia on the "Moscow Express", described by Smith as a "drab green Soviet sleeping-car" with "frilly curtains in every window".

Smith fondly recalls how he often took the train travelling to Netherlands to visit the family of his Dutch-born wife.

But he sees also some positive future developments in continental rail travel for passengers wanting to go from the UK to the Netherlands.

Smith said: "Eurostar plan a direct train from London to Rotterdam and Amsterdam from December this year. How many passengers passing through Hook of Holland in days gone by would have dreamed that one day a direct train would link central London with Amsterdam in 3 hours 50 minutes?"

CEN/T. Houdijk
The railway line from Hook of Holland Haven to Rotterdam
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Author: Koen Berghuis

Koen Berghuis is ViralTab's roving correspondent and editor of the Benelux & German desk.