Sittard-Heerlen-Aachen regional metro

This line is proposed as part of an urban-region metro (S-Bahn) in the wider Aachen region. It consists of an entirely new line, mainly in tunnel, from Heerlen toward Aachen, joining the existing line at Richterich. Trains from this line would use the proposed tunnel under central Aachen. The tunnel is a precondition for the new line from Heerlen: the existing line into Aachen Hauptbahnhof has insufficient capacity, and the new line only makes sense, as part of an urban-regional network.

The assumption is that services on the new line would start at Sittard, although that is not essential. From Sittard to Heerlen, trains would use the existing line. West of Heerlen station, they would enter a new tunnel under central Heerlen. The alignment shown below runs almost under the main street (Saroleastraat), the line of an old Roman road. (Parallel variants are possible, west of this line). The first underground station would adjoin the existing surface station. The next station would be at the southern edge of the historic centre, and north of the Bernardinus College. Approximate locations are shown:

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central-heerlen

The line would then follow the old highway Heerlen-Aachen (Akerstraat / Heerlerbaan), with stations at Heeserveld (Caumerbeeklaan) and Caumerweg. The line would surface at the Parkstad Limburg stadium, or at Locht, with stations at the Euregioweg and at Locht itself (as the line crosses the old rail line to Kerkrade). It would then turn south, towards the roundabout of the Avantis Allee, running parallel to the N281. It would then turn to follow the east side of the A76 motorway.

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heerlen-avantis

The line would follow the A76, with a station where it crosses the old road Bocholtz-Horbach. This station is not as convenient for Bocholtz, as the former station on the Maastricht-Aachen line, but it would serve the AVANTIS European Science and Business Park. Avantis is a prestige development located on the border, but it has not been a success, and most of it is still empty. (See below on the Via Avantis project). Just east of Vetschau, the new line would join the alignment of the old Aachen-Maastricht line,. At Richterich, it would join the existing line Mönchengladbach – Aachen. A station at Vetschau is possible, but there is not much housing there.

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avantis-line

From the junction, through Laurensberg, to the Aachen-West marshalling yard, the line must be doubled. A new station for Laurensberg could be built, on a reconstructed viaduct at the Rathausstrasse:

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laurensberg-station

Alternatively, the line could avoid the junction at Richterich and bypass Laurensberg, in a new tunnel from near Vetschau.

At the marshalling yard, the line would enter the central Aachen tunnel. Depending on the exact alignment, the new line would be about 18 km long, from Heerlen to central Aachen. With S-Bahn type trains, and 10 intermediate stops, journey time could be under 25 minutes.

Click to enlarge: the proposed central tunnel in Aachen, with a branch terminating at Vaals…

The proposed central tunnel in Aachen, with a branch terminating at Vaals

There are official plans to ‘upgrade’ existing lines in the region. The planned Via Avantis line is a light-rail route from Heerlen to Aachen. It consists of the existing line to Kerkrade, a section of the disused Kerkrade-Simpelveld line (as far as Locht), a new connecting line (4500 meter long) through the Avantis business park, and the line via Vetschau. It is a low-cost project (€20 million), a single-track line with one train per hour in each direction. Services to Kerkrade would get worse (at present every 30 minutes). The light-rail line would have a very indirect route, and would be 25 km long: planned journey time is 31 minutes Heerlen-Aachen.

Sittard-Heerlen-Aachen regional metro

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