High-speed bypass line Düren

The rail line from Aachen to Köln is an international route, recently upgraded for the Thalys to Paris.
It is officially a high-speed line, Schnellfahrstrecke, but only the 39-km section Düren – Köln permits speeds of over 200 km/h. It has separate tracks for S-Bahn services (with some 3-track sections). The double-track Aachen – Düren section (31 km) has yet to be fully upgraded, and it is shared by regional services and freight. The maximum speed is 160 km/h or 140 km/h (less on some sections).

East of Aachen, the line runs at the northern edge of the Eifel plateau. The alignment here, through Stolberg and Eschweiler, can not be upgraded for very high speeds. A bypass line would avoid these curving sections, and can be extended past Düren, to shorten the entire route. The Autobahn A4 is the only logical alignment for a new line. North of the Autobahn is a large zone with opencast coal mines, the Rheinisches Braunkohlerevier.

Rheinisches Braunkohlerevier, Thomas Römer/OpenStreetMap data CC 2.0 licence.

The by-pass line would diverge from the existing line out of Aachen, east of Eilendorf station. It would cross the A44 autobahn, south of Kreuz Aachen, and turn north-east to the A4 Autobahn. (This alignment is flexible, the area between the A44 and A4 is mainly forest).

The new line would then follow the A4 north of Eschweiler. The main Köln – Aachen line runs close to the edge of the hills. The old Mönchengladbach – Stolberg line runs parallel, north of the main line. It is now used by the regional euregiobahn services, releasing capacity on the main line. In 2009, it was connected to the main line by a new 2,4 km link line to Langerwehe, so that euregio trains can continue to Düren. These alignments would remain in use: the new line is intended to bypass Eschweiler. It would follow the A4 closely, on its south side, away from future mining operations.

New rail bypass north of Eschweiler, on line Aachen - Köln.

East of Weisweiler, the existing line runs in a straight line into Düren. The new line can rejoin it near Langerwehe, using an alignment parallel to the 2009 link line (shown in red). Possibly, it could join the existing line east of Langerwehe (green line). The most logical option is however, to extend the line further along the A4. With 93 000 inhabitants, Düren is large enough to justify service by some ICE trains, but a Paris – Köln route also justifies trains which bypass it.

Again the alignment would simply follow the A4. North of Arnoldsweiler it would turn away from the Autobahn, to rejoin the existing line north of Merzenich. The Hambach opencast mine is being extended south to the railway, and the A4 relocated, but that has no consequences for the alignment proposed here.

Rail bypass north of Düren, on line Aachen - Köln.

The new alignment would then be approximately 28 km long, with no intermediate stations. It would be used only by high-speed trains on the route Aachen-Köln, including possibly inter-regional express services.

High-speed bypass line Düren

6 thoughts on “High-speed bypass line Düren

  1. PkK says:

    While I agree with the basi idea, buildings are wuite close to the autobahn on the south side. Having the new line partially on the North side would make this less of a problem, and allow for somewhat higher speeds due to the curve radii. Also, the ground there is relatively even, so the new line could be well used for freight during the times when there is not much high-speed traffic.


    1. infrastruct says:

      In such cases, it is probably easier to move the motorway, that is, reconstruct it on a parallel alignment. The HSL can not follow the Autobahn at Weisweiler anyway – the curves are too sharp.

  2. The idea of having the HSL go by A4 is interesting. But the problem is not really the low speed from Aachen to Düren, but that the capacity for freight trains is limited. Currently, the idea is to build a 3rd track from Aachen to Düren. However, I would rather see the 3rd (and maybe the 4th) track for freight trains only that bypasses Aachen alltogether and goes from Stolberg southwest along the A44 Autobahn directly into Belgium. This freight line can join the freight line at Montzen, eliminating the need for changing direction/locomotives at the Aachen West freight station. Or, to save costs, it could first join the railway line in Welkenraedt, and then go from there to Montzen using an existing track that has to be upgraded.

    With this line, it would not be necessary to build a second viaduct between Aachen Rothe Erde and Aachen Hauptbahnhof. Currently, this is the bottleneck. Without all the freight trains here, it would be possible to have up to 3 high-speed trains an hour here (instead of one), together with more local Euregiobahn trains.

    Tell me what you think of this idea. Your blog is wonderful. I live in Aachen, but originally I am from Moscow. I also have a blog in Russian with similar (but maybe more cost-realistic) ideas for the Moscow metro system, metrofuture.livejournal.com.

    1. infrastruct says:

      A new freight line along the Autobahn A44 to Welkenraedt would go in the direction of Liège. However, that is not where the freight is going to: most is going towards Antwerp. A route to Montzen via Welkenraedt would therefore be longer, for no good reason. In any case, trains from the Mönchengladbach line would still go through Aachen West.

      In fact, originally, there was a direct line from Aachen Hbf to Montzen. (It crosses the old main road at Presuwald). The present line to Aachen West was built as a bypass.

      The geography of the Montzen route is illogical. It was built purely for military reasons, to avoid Netherlands territory during World War I. (That is why the tunnel at Vaals is just south of the border).

      The original rail route from the Ruhr to Antwerp was the Iron Rhine via Roermond. It crosses the Netherlands between Weert and Roermond. Although Belgium was forced to build the Montzen route by the German occupiers, it was to their advantage. After the war, they had a 100% Belgian route to the Ruhr. For that reason, the Iron Rhine was gradually abandoned as a freight route.

      At present there are plans to re-activate the Iron Rhine, but part of it runs through a National Park. Certainly, the most logical freight route would be north of Aachen. See the proposal for a new transit freight line through Flanders.

      The proposal here for a HSL Aachen – Düren is therefore not primarily for capacity, but for speed. It assumes much higher frequencies than present German standards: one high-speed train every 10 minutes. (The new HSL2 in England would have a 3-minute frequency). The series of proposals includes new lines from Aachen to Maastricht and Sittard, in addition to the existing HSL to Liège.

      1. I agree with you that the Iron Rhine route is a shorter way to go for goods from Antwerp and Rotterdam in the direction of Ruhr, etc. However, the authorities here in Germany also talk about the rising demand for goods in the Cologne area, as well as further connections from Cologne on to both north/north-west and south. In that case, Aachen is still more or less on the shortest path from Antwerp to Cologne, so that my suggestion still makes sense.

        I don’t believe that avoiding Aachen along A44 is much or any longer than going through Aachen West, especially if you consider that the locomotive must be changed in the later case. Of course, the shortest way would be to re-activate the Preuswald connection you mentioned, but that would not solve the capacity problem between Aachen Hbf and Rothe Erde.

      2. infrastruct says:

        The Düren bypass line would not create extra capacity in Aachen itself. Extra tracks will be needed: near the station that is difficult.

        The Montzen route does not make sense for any freight traffic. It runs through the hills, when there are shorter level routes available. The only reason for the line was military necessity. The route in Belgium is also indirect, through Tongeren and Bilzen to Hasselt. A possible alternative is a freight line along the A4 (D), the A76 (NL) and the A2 (B).

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