This is an initial alignment proposal, for an urban-regional metro (S-Bahn) in and around Aachen. A new central tunnel, from the Aachen-West marshalling yard to Rothe Erde, would effectively duplicate the existing surface route, passing under the historic centre. At present there is insufficient capacity for an S-Bahn service – the local Euregiobahn can only operate because service frequency is low. The tunnel would be used by trains from several branches, extending up to 35 km from central Aachen. From the north, access is from the Mönchengladbach line, and from a new Vaals line (via the university complex at Melaten). Westwards, the tunnel would connect to the existing line to Düren, a possible branch to Stolberg, and to Kornelimünster, using part of an old rail alignment.
The topography and geology of Aachen, and the historic buildings in the centre, would make this a difficult project. However, with a city population of 258 000, and 565 000 in the new Städteregion Aachen, the urban area is large enough to justify its scale.
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The tunnel would start at a new station on the east side of the marshalling yard, replacing the existing Aachen-West station. It would be accessed from a new footbridge (or road bridge) from Mies-van-der-Rohe-Strasse to Kühlwetterstrasse. The former marshaling yard here will be redeveloped in the coming years, as part of the Aachen Campus plan – a major expansion of the RWTH (Aachen Technical University). The plans do not include an upgrade of the rail line, but they are not incompatible with a new station. The Vaals branch would not pass through this station, but would join the new line just south of it.
The tunnel in the central area would have three stations. A station at the northern edge of the historic centre would also serve the original RWTH complex. The most central station would be located near the crossing Franzstrasse / Kapuzinergraben. Alongside Aachen Hauptbahnhof would be an underground station, approximately under the Römerstrasse.
The line would run under the Oppenhoff Allee, to near the existing station at Rothe Erde. Although Oppenhoff Allee is broad, the streets at both ends are not, and tunneling under buildings is unavoidable. East of Rothe Erde station, the tunnel would connect to the existing line toward Düren. Two new branches are also possible from there.
One is a direct route (south of Eilendorf) to Stolberg. The present euregiobahn trains to Stolberg-Altstadt must reverse at Stolberg Hauptbahnhof (which despite the name is not near the town centre). At first the line would follow the old Vennbahn alignment toward Brand, and then turn west to Stolberg. The line would cross the Inde valley on a viaduct, and approach Stolberg in tunnel – the town developed in a narrow valley. The line would terminate at either Unterstolberg, near the Town Hall, or further south, near the historical core (Altstadt). The 5 km of new alignment crosses open ground: that makes construction easier, but it would serve no housing between Eilendorf and Stolberg.
The other branch would run via Brand, and terminate at the old Vennbahn station in Kornelimünster. The geographically simplest alignment (white dotted line) is in tunnel under the old main road through Brand (Trierer Strasse). The alignment along the Triererstrasse is difficult: the road climbs about 80 m, from Rothe Erde station to Brand. Nevertheless, the centres of the former settlements lie along the road: the easier-graded alignment of the old railway avoided them. An alternative alignment using part of the old line is shown in blue. It would have easier gradients, and is easier to build, but is at the edge of the built-up areas (Forst, Krummerück).
After Brand, the Triererstrasse drops sharply, to cross a valley between Brand and Kornelimünster. If the new line runs east of the road here, a viaduct of 15 to 20 m height would be needed. The old alignment into Kornelimünster is intact, and in use as a cycle path: the station is in use as a restaurant.
The proposed branch to Vaals would terminate at the edge of Vaals itself, at right angles to the main road. The line from Aaachen would use the existing lower ground alongside the Mies-van-der-Rohe-Strasse, turning to the west. It would enter a tunnel at a new station, at the crossing of the Mies-van-der-Rohe Strasse and Halifaxstrasse. It would then cross the Aachen ring road (Pariser Ring) on a bridge, and enter an underground station directly in front of the Klinikum (academic hospital of Aachen RWTH university). Beyond the car parks here are open fields: the line would drop about 20 metres in tunnel (turning south-west), then cross the stream (Selzerbeek / Senserbach), and then run parallel to the Grensstraat / Grenzstrasse. The station would be approximately on the site of the old Customs building, 100 m from the centre of Vaals.
The university has a project for a new link between its campus zones, the CampusBahn project. It was originally proposed as a people-mover, but has been scaled down to an isolated tram line. It would also terminate at right angles to the Vaalser Strasse, but further east.
Extension of a Vaals branch, to join the existing alignment to Maastricht would be difficult: see the propsed alignment for a Gulpen – Vaals – Aachen link. Apart from Vaals and Gulpen, the intermediate villages (Lemiers, Nijswiller, Wahlwiller) are small. Reactivation of the old line Richterich-Simpelveld-Valkenburg-Maastricht would probably be easier. In combination with a high-speed line Maastricht – Aachen, that would provide a comprehensive service between the two cities.
The city-centre tunnel would also be used by trains from…
- a new Sittard-Heerlen-Aachen line
- Heerlen and Kerkrade via a new line Kerkrade-Kohlscheid
- the existing line via Stolberg Hauptbahnhof to Düren, the terminus of the Köln S-Bahn line S12. Connecting to that line would create operational problems, the line is already 105 km long. The best option is an end-to-end terminus of the two S-Bahn systems, at Düren.