Posts Tagged ‘Vaals’
Revised with new maps: New rail line Wijlre – Gulpen – Vaals.
This proposed tram network for Aachen complements the proposed urban-regional metro Aachen (S-Bahn Aachen). It generally uses the routes of the former Aachen tram network, which finally closed in 1974.
Click to enlarge: the proposed regional metro lines in central Aachen, with Vaals branch…
Reopening of tram lines in Aachen has been an issue in local politics for some years. Until recently, that was seen in the context of Euregiobahn services. The initiative STADTBAHN-jetzt! proposed its extension to central Aachen, with dual-system or diesel vehicles. The lines proposed here are urban tram lines, and not compatible with the Euregiobahn vehicles (or its low frequency).
More recently the Initiative AC-Bahn presented a plan for a 2-line tram network (central line with 4 branches). Three are identical to lines proposed here, which is inevitable since they are former tram routes. The other is a new tram alignment to the Melaten campus of the RWTH (Aachen Technical University). The campus will be expanded with a science park, and a second campus built on the old Aachen freight station. The RWTH also retains its city-centre buildings. It initially supported a people-mover to link the three zones, the CampusBahn project. However, as the city’s press release explains:
Ein People-Mover-System hätte zwar die entsprechenden Leistungskapazitäten, hier sind jedoch die sehr hohen Investitions- und Betriebskosten nicht tragbar.
So it was downgraded to a tram. The press release calls it a ‘Stadtbahn’, but the detailed studies show a tram (Strassenbahn).
The Aachener Verkehrsverbund (AVV) now proposes extensions of the CampusBahn, from the city centre. Again they are almost identical to the Initiative AC-Bahn proposals: these are old tram lines, and the old rail alignment to Würselen.
The AVV proposals for extension of the CampusBahn line…
The CampusBahn line is not included in the tram proposals here, because the proposed S-Bahn Aachen includes a new line to Vaals, via the Melaten campus. The station would be at the Klinikum (academic hospital), at the south end of the large campus, and it would not exclude an additional tram line. The officially planned CampusBahn might run into the city centre, and it might be extended. However it is not conceived as a network, and that is what is proposed here.
The proposed tram network would consist of 6 radial branches outside the city centre, operated as 3 lines. They would follow historic main roads out of the city, which take their name from their destination. One line would run north-west to south-east, from Roermonder Strasse to Trierer Strasse (A to D). Other branches would run on the Vaalser Strasse (B), the Jülicher Strasse (E), and the Krefelder Strasse (F). Only the line to Colynshof (C) would not use a major exit road: it would leave the city centre via Mozartstrasse. Branch B and C would be linked to E and F, but the best combination depends on traffic flows.
Click to enlarge…
The main problem for trams in Aachen, is the steep gradients on some streets – the city is located at the edge of the Eifel mountains. For instance, the alignment Sandkaulstrasse – Krefelder Strasse is a logical route out of the centre, but probably too steep for trams. An alternative is an existing bus route (34, 51) to the Krefelder Strasse, via the Passstrasse.
Another alternative for a line along the Krefelder Strasse, is a tram line along the old rail line from Aachen-Nord – Jülich, at least as far as Würselen. Part of the line is in use as an industrial siding: a tram line would not prevent that, but it would be incompatible with regional rail services on the remaining section, to Jülich itself. (The AC-Bahn proposal includes an unspecified connection from this rail line, to the tram network).
In the city centre there would be two alignments, crossing at the existing bus station (Bushof). The line from the Roermonder Strasse would run via the Malteserstrasse and Wüllnerstrasse, to avoid the narrow Pontstrasse and the old city gate (Ponttor). Via Hirschgraben and and Seilgraben, it would reach the bus station. (This alignment is compatible with the CampusBahn line, which enters the centre via Intzestrasse and Wüllnerstrasse).
Click to enlarge…
The tram would leave the centre via the Stiftstrasse, crossing a pedestrianised zone, and then passing the Adalbert church. The other line in the centre would run via Kapuzinergraben and Peterstrasse.
Click to enlarge…
The alignment from Kapuzinergraben to Colynshof, via Goethestrasse and Kaiser Friedrich Allee, is relatively level (it partly follows a stream). This is a former tram route anyway. The line to Vaals would run via Alexianergraben, Löhergraben and Karlsgraben, and then make a right-angle turn into the Lochnerstrasse. Like the old tram line, this alignment avoids the steep gradient at the beginning of Vaalser Strasse, especially under the railway bridge.
The line from the Adalbert-Kirche would continue along Adalbertsteinweg, and then Triererstrasse. This road begins to rise after Rothe Erde station: over the whole route the gradient is about 2%, but it is locally steeper. Nevertheless, the old tram line ran all the way to Brand, and so does the line proposed by AC-Bahn.
Eulersweg is the logical terminus for the line along the Krefelder Strasse, at the edge of the continuous built-up area and just before the Autobahn A4. The line via Jülicher Strasse would end in the centre of the village of Haaren, or again at the A4.
Apart from local gradients, there are no major technical or planning issues for this tram network in Aachen. The streets are wide enough, and no major new infrastructure is required. Another possible line, along the west side of the city centre (Wilhelmstrasse) and via Burtscheid to Steinebrück, would raise planning issues. This is a former tram route, but the Burtscheider Markt and Kapellenstrasse are now pedestrianised (and gentrified), so there would be local opposition to the return of the tram.
Aachen once had 11 radial tram lines (and a trolleybus line). They ran along all the main roads out of the city. There is clearly great potential for expansion, from the basic network suggested here.
Revised with new maps: High-speed rail line Maastricht – 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.