Posts Tagged ‘MHAL’
Revised, with new maps, and a new proposed alignment:
Revised with new maps: High-speed rail line Sittard – Aachen.
This proposed high-speed line (HSL) complements the reactivation of the old line Aaachen-Richterich-Simpelveld-Valkenburg-Maastricht, opened 1853 and closed 1992. The reopened line would form part of the proposed urban-regional metro Aachen (S-Bahn Aachen). The HSL would provide a fast service between the city centres: Aachen has a population of 258 000, with 565 000 in the urban region, and Maastricht has 118 000 inhabitants. The HSL would also connect to other intercity services from Aachen and Maastricht.
The proposed line makes sense primarily in the context of the proposed high-speed line Hasselt – Maastricht and a high-speed service from Antwerpen to Hasselt. Together, the proposals create a new east-west high-speed route, from Antwerpen to Aachen.
The proposed line uses part of the alignment of the former Limburgsche Tramweg-Maatschappij (LTM), a steam-tram line from Maastricht to Vaals, opened in 1925. East of Gulpen, the new HSL would have a similar alignment to a possible Gulpen – Vaals – Aachen link, an urban-regional line (S-Bahn). Combined construction of both lines would be difficult: the best option is a direct HSL, together with reactivation of the old line Maastricht – Aachen, with urban-regional services via Valkenburg.
The new line would start at Maastricht Station, on the right bank of the Maas (opposite the historic city centre). The high-speed line from Hasselt would approach the station from the north, in tunnel under the Maas.
The proposed HSL from Hasselt…
The line to Aachen would curve to the east immediately after the station, following the former tram route, and leave the city in shallow tunnel under the N278 (Akersteenweg). The station would need to be reconstructed: at present it has mainly terminal platforms, since most trains from the north terminate there. Immediately south of the station area, the rail line is constricted: the prominent Church of the Sacred Heart blocks expansion of the rail area here. Nevertheless, there is sufficient room for extra tracks, if the road in front of the church is closed. If the new platforms begin at the station building, there is also sufficient room for a grade-separated junction at the south end of the station. The road tunnel Akerstraat / Scharnerweg can probably remain in use, but with the new A2 motorway tunnel, it will lose most traffic anyway.
The original tram route eastwards seems to have followed the Heerderweg, but the new rail line would run south of this street. Some demolition would be needed, most of it low-quality one-storey buildings. However, the area will be redeveloped in combination with the planned A2 motorway tunnel. It would begin south of the motorway junction Europaplein, which would exclude a rail tunnel here. A rail viaduct would conflict with the planned housing near the junction. Possibly the exit line from the station could be further south, in tunnel, joining the Akersteenweg from the southern side.
Outside Maastricht the old tram line diverged from the main road, to avoid a steep climb to Cadier en Keer. It used an easier route, north of the village, and rejoined the N278 just east of it. The horizontal alignment is not suitable for a high-speed line, so the new line would take a less curving route. Between Cadier en Margraten, the alignment would approximately parallel the N278, on the south side of the road. The main road climbs about 40 metres, in the 3 km between the two villages. Although the road through Margraten is straight, and just wide enough for a cut-and-cover tunnel, the best option seems to be an alignment south of the built-up area.
Between Margraten and Gulpen, the road falls 70 metres. The old steam tram avoided this slope, by diverging to the south, crossing the Gulp valley on a viaduct at Euverem, and entering Gulpen from the south-west. The new line will not enter Gulpen, but it would use a similar solution. It would cross a descending viaduct near the campsite at Euverem, and cross the Gulp valley. The valley floor is at about 105 m altitude. It would enter a tunnel, under the ridge between the Gulp and Geul valleys.
The line would emerge from tunnel south-west of Partij, and pass south of Partij and Wahlwiller, to rejoin the alignment of the N278. From here to Vaals the alignment would be identical to that of the possible Gulpen – Vaals – Aachen link. The constraints are the same, and the best solution is to follow the N278. The line would pass just south of Nijswiller, with a tunnel under the low ridge between Wahlwiller and Nijswiller. It would rejoin the route of the N278, at its junction with the N281.
From here to Vaals, the constraints include a narrow section of the valley (Selzerbeek stream, Senserbach in German), and historical building such as the Benedictine Abbey Benedictusberg and the old centre of Lemiers. The N278 runs in a straight line, the gradient is acceptable: a rail line is possible beside the road, or in some places under the road. The road through Lemiers, which avoids the historic village core, is wide enough for a shallow tunnel.
From Lemiers, the road climbs 40 m up the flank of the valley, in less than 2 km, to the edge of Vaals. The old tram line followed an easier gradient, nearer the Selzerbeek, on the north side of Vaals. For high-speed trains the gradient into Vaals is not a problem, and the line could go in shallow tunnel through the village (thin blue line). The main street does curve in Vaals itself, which might restrict speed.
The alignment in Vaals would also be dependent on the route eastwards, to Aachen Hauptbahnhof (6 km due east). One option is to follow the main road – Vaalser Strasse, Bundesstrasse 1 – at least as far as the junction with the Amsterdammer Ring. The main road dips and curves, as it crosses the Senserbach (barely visible here), and curves again about 400 m east. However, there is enough open space is enough to allow the line to emerge from tunnel, and enter another tunnel (red dotted line), under the houses of Vaalserquartier. Another option is a long tunnel (white dashed line) under the southern half of Vaals, which is about 20-30 m higher than the main road. This tunnel would join the alignment of the freight rail line Aachen – Montzen – although this line does not go to Aachen Hauptbahnhof, and another connecting tunnel would be required
Near the western cemetery (Westfriedhof), the Vaalser Strasse crosses the Aachen – Montzen line. Here, all variants would enter a tunnel – the exact alignment and portal depends on the alignment through Vaals. The tunnel would surface close to the main station (near Weberstrasse). Because of the terrain, the built-up areas, and the crossings with roads and rail lines, a single long tunnel from Vaals might be the best option.
The exit point of the tunnel is a problem, in this densely-built urban area. Aachen Hauptbahnhof also has a restricted location, which could be improved (on the west side), by moving the northern boundary of the track area (red line), and re-aligning some of the tracks (blue lines).
The total length of the line from Maastricht to Aachen would be about 32 km. Although the line is too short for very high speeds, the section Cadier – Vaals could be aligned for 150 km/h to 180 km/h. A journey time of under 20 minutes is certainly feasible.
This proposed high-speed line (HSL) complements the proposed high-speed line Hasselt – Liège, and would use the same upgraded and 4-tracked line, from Hasselt to Bilzen. Its purpose is to allow a high-speed service from Antwerpen to Maastricht, and the extension of inter-regional services on the same axis. It could connect to a proposed Maastricht – Aachen high-speed line, creating a new Antwerpen – Aachen rail axis.
There was a rail connection (Belgian line 20) from Hasselt to Maastricht – closed to passengers in 1954, and closed entirely in 1992. It splits from the Hasselt – Tongeren – line at Beverst Junction (which is in fact just outside Bilzen). The Hasselt – Tongeren section is part of the Montzen route from Antwerpen to Germany, a major freight route. The 19-km single-track line, from Beverst Junction to Maastricht, was never as important. It runs east through Munsterbilzen and Eigenbilzen, and then crosses the Albert Canal at Gellik. In Lanaken, it crosses the Briegden – Neerhalen Canal, and turns south to Maastricht. It passes industrial areas in Maastricht itself, and then crosses the river Maas, to Maastricht Station. Much of the alignment is abandoned, and barely visible in the landscape. However, a 6 km section from Maastricht has recently re-opened, for freight to the Sappi paper plant at Lanaken. It also serves a new industrial/logistics park south of Lanaken, although this zone is still in development.
There is an official proposal to re-open the section Lanaken – Beverst Junction, allowing a light-rail service from Maastricht to Hasselt. (This is part of the Spartacus project). The HSL proposed here, is qualitatively different from these light-rail proposals, but it does not exclude a rail link from Maastricht to Bilzen.
The proposed high-speed lines to Maastricht and Liège, would parallel the existing rail line from Hasselt to Beverst Junction. The proposed high-speed line to Liège (in red) would diverge before this junction, to join the alignment of the A13 motorway. The Maastricht line would continue straight on, toward Eigenbilzen. (The old line ran further north here, serving a station in Munsterbilzen).
The new line can use the existing alignment through Eigenbilzen. It would first turn in a wide curve, passing south of Munsterbilzen, to rejoin the old alignment at Eigenbilzen. The village is built on a low north-south ridge, about 20 m high, and the old line runs in cutting through the village. It could be converted to a double-track covered trench, which would minimise noise in the village.
The old line then runs along the edge of the Albert Canal: the new line can do the same, but with a wider curve leaving Eigenbilzen. About 1 km outside Eigenbilzen, the HSL would turn away from the canal, to pass between Briegden and Veldwezelt. At Briegden, the Albert Canal turns south, and the HSL would now cross it, on a bridge, at right angles. This section can be built almost as a straight line.
Just north of the built-up area of Mastricht (Oud-Caberg), the line would descend into a curving tunnel. The tunnel would pass under a waste landfill, but that should no be a problem. It would then pass under the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal, and the river Maas, emerging just north of Maastricht station. (From the platform ends, over one kilometre is available, for trains descending to a tunnel under the river).
The proposed new line is a high-speed line, with no stations. The new alignment Bilzen – Maastricht would be about 16 km long, and the existing alignment Hasselt – Bilzen is also 16 km long. Journey time Hasselt – Maastricht should be about 12 minutes.
Re-opening of the old line, on its existing alignment, remains possible, certainly from Maastricht to the bridge at Gellik. The only place, where the old and new alignment conflict, is at Eigenbilzen. The issue can be resolved, by a 3-track or 4-track covered trench through the village. The old alignment through Munsterbilzen to Beverst Junction, can also be re-opened without problems. In addition to local services to/from Hasselt, the Maastricht – Lanaken section could also be used by a possible light-rail service, along the villages on the left bank of the Maas. With freight traffic as well, a single track would be insufficient, and doubling of the section Lanaken – Maastricht would be required.