High-speed line Hasselt – Maastricht

This proposed high-speed line (HSL) complements the proposed high-speed line Hasselt – Liège, and would share its alignment for about 9 km from Hasselt to Diepenbeek. Its purpose is to extend the proposed high-speed service Antwerpen – Hasselt. It could connect at Maastricht to the proposed Maastricht – Aachen HSL, creating a new Antwerpen – Aachen rail axis.

hsl-hasselt-maastricht

 
Hasselt (75 000 inhabitants), is only 27 km from Maastricht, in a straight line. At present there is no service between them, but a regional tram service is planned, using an old railway line. From Hasselt Belgian Line 34 runs to Liège via Tongeren. It turns south at Bilzen (‘Beverst Junction’), and the disused Line 20 continued to Maastricht, via Lanaken. The planned regional tram will run on a separate alignment to Bilzen, and then over the former Line 20 into Maastricht.

HSL alternative

The proposed HSL is qualitatively different from the light-rail project, but it does not exclude service of intermediate stations. In fact, the HSL can avoid the old Line 20 entirely, leaving it free for a new regional rail line via Lanaken. (The HSL would however be incompatible with the planned parallel tram line through Diepenbeek, since space is limited).

For the HSL, the line out of Hasselt Station would be upgraded, with a grade-separated junction for the line from St. Truiden (Line 21). The curve at the edge of the built-up area would be improved. From there to Bilzen, Line 34 can either be upgraded as a four-track line (Ausbaustrecke), or a parallel HSL could be built directly alongside it it. Either way, all level crossings must be replaced, probably with a cut-and-cover tunnel though Diepenbeek. East of Diepenbeek, the proposed HSL to Liège would diverge, turning south toward Tongeren.

At Bilzen, the HSL would diverge from Line 34. It can not simply follow the old alignment through Munsterbilzen and Eigenbilzen, because that is too sharply curved. The section through Lanaken is also too far north.

bilzen-eigenbilzen

 
The new line would therefore run south of Line 20, at the edge of Munsterbilzen, and probably in tunnel under Eigenbilzen. The typical sprawl around Flemish villages (lintbebouwing) makes some demolition inevitable. At Munsterbilzen, the line can be cut into a low ridge, limiting the effects.

Beverst Junction is at about 50 m elevation, and the terrain then slopes upward to the plateau above Maastricht, at about 80 m elevation. The HSL can probably run on surface on this plateau, south of Gellik, on an almost straight alignment. It must first cut through Eigenbilzen. Even if the HSL uses the old cutting through the village, some houses must be demolished for a new curve, to avoid the Albert Canal (alignment shown in blue). A tunnel just south of the village centre seems preferable: it can also take advantage of the terrain, since the village is higher than the land on the west side. A southern alignment (in white) would also avoid the castle ruins west of the village, and most of the forest at Groenendaal.

eigenbilzen-briegden

 
Between Briegden and Veldwezelt, the new line would cross the Albert Canal on a bridge. The west bank is about 15 m higher than the east bank here, so the line would continue on viaduct.

North of the built-up area of Maastricht (Oud-Caberg), at about 60 m elevation, the line would enter a long tunnel. This 4-km tunnel would curve slowly, to align with Maastricht Station on the opposite bank of the Maas. It would descend 40 m from the portal at Oud-Caberg, in order to cross the river – the river bank is at 45 m in Maastricht. This alignment takes it under a waste landfill, but at that depth, there should be no problem with subsidence.

The tunnel would pass under the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal, and the river Maas, emerging just north of Maastricht Station. The alignment must take account of redevelopment north of the station, and some demolition may be required. From the river to the platforms, over 1200 m is available, for the tunnel to climb to the station.

maastricht-veldwezelt

 
From Maastricht, trains might continue on the proposed HSL to Aachen. An alternative for that project is an express service on a re-opened Maastricht-Aachen line. The Hasselt – Maastricht line would also connect with the proposed Maas valley high-speed corridor to Venlo and Nijmegen.

The proposed high-speed line would have no intermediate stations. The new alignment Bilzen – Maastricht would be about 16 km long, and the whole line about 30 km, station to station. Journey time Hasselt – Maastricht should be about 12 minutes.

High-speed line Hasselt – Maastricht

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