In more than half a year the time has come: the Formula 1 circus will return to the Netherlands. That the Grand Prix is coming seems to be certain, but a lot of work still needs to be done on and around the Zandvoort circuit. Four obstacles around the Dutch GP in a row.
1. Nature permit and environmental organizations
To make the Zandvoort racing circuit more than seventy years old ready for the return of the Formula 1 circus in the Netherlands, several adjustments are needed. Most of these adjustments - think of the construction of temporary grandstands, the adaptation of access paths and the demolition of a building on the circuit - take place on the terrain of the circuit.
But because the circuit is on the edge of the protected Zuid-Kennemerland nature reserve, a nature permit is required before the work can begin.
That nature permit had not yet been applied for at the end of September from the province of Noord-Holland, but in the meantime that is the case, says a spokesperson for the province. Because time is running out, the province is expected to take a decision next week on granting the permit.
But even if the permit is granted, that does not automatically mean that the work can continue. Environmental organizations are already in the starting blocks to go to court, because they fear that damage to nature will be done and that rare animal species such as the sand lizard and natterjack toad are chased away.
A young natterjack toad. (photo: Job van der Plicht)
2. Nitrogen problems in the Netherlands
The national nitrogen problem is also affecting the preparations for the Grand Prix in Zandvoort. For many years too much nitrogen has been emitted in the Netherlands, which affects sensitive natural areas.
The moment that work is being carried out in the vicinity of protected nature where nitrogen is released, a permit is required. Since 2015, this permit has been granted on the basis of the Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS). The emission of nitrogen would be compensated at a later time, so that construction could already take place.
But that compensation did not always come anymore. That is why the Council of State drew a line through the PAS in May, after the European Court of Justice had already done so in November last year.
Thousands of construction projects suddenly stopped, as did work on the Grand Prix of Zandvoort. It is no longer permitted to emit extra nitrogen in the vicinity of nature reserves if it is not compensated in any other way.
See also: Eight questions (and answers) about the nitrogen problem
The cabinet decided on Friday to reduce the speed on some roads and to buy out farmers who emit a lot of nitrogen with their business. As a result, nitrogen emissions must decrease and space is once again available for construction projects.
What consequences that will have for the Dutch GP is not yet clear. But if it is not the case that a permit is granted, then the racing event can go ahead, but must be done on an inappropriate circuit.
Jan Lammers, sporting director of the Dutch Grand Prix, said earlier that that would mean that not everything would be as "comfortable, safe and sustainable" as the organization wants.
77Why does nitrogen cause so many problems in the Netherlands?
3. Budget for the municipality of Zandvoort not yet completed
An important point for the accessibility of Zandvoort during the Dutch GP is that the Grand Prix budget that the municipality of Zandvoort has drawn up is "under tension".
In March this year, the municipal council of Zandvoort agreed to a contribution of 4 million euros to the organization of a Grand Prix. That money is not spent on the Grand Prix itself, but on peripheral issues such as accessibility of Zandvoort in the first week of May.
However, last month it appeared that the 4 million euros from the municipality of Zandvoort is not sufficient. For example, that budget does not take into account a lobbyist "who must contribute to solving the mobility issue" and the civil servants spend a lot of time on the many questions that come to the municipality.
In addition, it is a surprise for Zandvoort that it must also contribute to work on the track, which must ensure that Zandvoort is also easily accessible by train during the Grand Prix. Exactly how much money the municipality of Zandvoort is lacking will become clear at the end of this month.
See also: Budget of Zandvoort municipality for Grand Prix 'is under tension'
4. Trains do not run without financing
The municipality of Zandvoort does not have to bear the burden of work on the railways alone. In total, ProRail needs 7 million euros to renovate the track in such a way that it can handle the flow of travelers during racing events. Zandvoort has to pay over 1.3 million euros for this.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is contributing 2.35 million euros to the project and the province of Noord-Holland 1.45 million euros. The Amsterdam Transport Region is also contributing 600,000 euros. The municipalities of Haarlem, Bloemendaal and Heemstede jointly pay another nearly 1.3 million euros.
The problem is, however, that only the contribution from the Ministry of Infrastructure is certain. For the rest, decision-making has yet to take place. If everything goes according to plan, those decisions will all fall in October, but ProRail and the Dutch Railways (NS) emphasize the importance of getting those financial resources together.
“Normally 5,000 travelers use this line every week. During the Grand Prix there are 120,000 in three days. "ProRail spokesperson
"Normally, five thousand travelers a week use this line," says a ProRail spokesperson. "During the Grand Prix there are 120,000 in three days." Trains have to run more often to cope with this enormous increase in travelers. Now that can be four per hour, but that should be increased to ten per hour.
If that does not happen, because there is no money for it, then it becomes a "chaos". "Then safety is at stake and we want to prevent that and so the trains will not run at all on that route," said the ProRail spokesperson.
The 120,000 train passengers will then have to find another way of transport during the Grand Prix and that will not improve the accessibility of the village. "But," says the spokesperson, "we assume that we have an agreement and then we can still start work in the autumn. They will be ready well before May 1st."