Exploding poison-train or safest way of transportation ever?: A research to the difference in perspective of risk regarding the transportation of hazmat by train between citizens and planners in Eindhoven.
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Summary The Netherlands has an extensive railway network that is used for transporting persons, goods, and hazardous materials (from here: hazmat). Often, these trains have to cross densely populated cities and city centres. Especially for the transportation of hazmat, this brings some risk for the citizens living in the surrounding areas of the railway. Therefore, technical experts and governmental planners create rules, regulations, and protective measures to decrease the risk to an acceptable level. This acceptable level, determined by the experts and planners, is based on an objective notion of the risk. Factors that form the objective notion of risk are incident probability, population exposure, and vulnerability (Slovic, 2010; Bagheri, Verma & Verter, 2014; Covello & Merkhofer, 1993). What is missing knowledge about transporting hazmat by train in the Netherlands is information about the citizens’ perspective on risk. This is a problem because according to many social scientists the perception of risk is subjective and can differ between citizens and governments (Slovic, 2010; Wachinger, Renn, Begg & Kuhlicke, 2013). This could lead to a discrepancy between citizens and governments about the (sort of) protective measures, or the citizens might not accept the transport of hazmat at all (Wachinger, Renn, Begg & Kuhlicke, 2013). The purpose of this research is to investigate this gap between citizens and planners and is therefore structured around the following question: What is the perspective of both citizens living near railway-transportation routes and planners on the risk linked to the transportation of hazmat and the policy around it? To answer this question, a case study in Eindhoven is executed, a city in the southern half of the Netherlands where relatively many trains with hazmat cross the city centre. During this case study, a document analysis is executed and semi-structured interviews with citizens and planners are conducted. The interviews were based on topics that came up during the literature review: social trust, experience, cognitive and affective risk interpretation, ethics, mitigation and prevention, and risk governance. The results lead to four conclusions: 1) in the Netherlands there is an influential national policy, called the Basisnet, that determines most policy about the transportation of hazmat in general. 2) citizens focus more on affective elements when calculating the risk and they tend to dramality the consequences of an accident, while planners use more cognitive elements when calculating the risk and the consequences of an accident. 3) citizens experience on a daily basis many other inconveniences from the train passing their houses at a close distance, such as noise pollution and vibrations. These inconveniences are considered as a bigger problem than the risk regarding the transportation of hazmat. And 4) both citizens and planners are frustrated about the finished, but unused Betuweroute. The research ends with two recommendations for future policy: 1) integrate the affective contribution of citizens through formalised participation. And 2) create an integral decision-making process in which the national government, the municipalities, representing their citizens, and ProRail make decisions together.