Twente – Münster high-speed line

This proposed high-speed line (HSL, Neubaustrecke) would approximately parallel the existing 67-km single-track route Enschede – Gronau – Münster line. It would extend the proposed Zwolle – Twente high-speed line to Münster. In combination with a high-speed line from Amsterdam to Zwolle, that would create a much faster route from Amsterdam to Münster itself, and on into Nordrhein-Westfalen. Further high-speed lines west of Münster and on to Hannover could make this the fastest route to Berlin, and much of central Germany.

The line would follow the existing alignment from Enschede through Gronau, which would be fully reconstructed as a four-track route. Some sections in Enschede and Gronau would be in tunnel. The proposed new alignment would leave the existing line east of Gronau, and pass south of Ochtrup, north of Steinfurt, and between Nordwalde and Greven. It would then join the existing Ems valley line (Emden – Münster), about 5 km north of Münster Hauptbahnhof.

twentemunster-hsl

The present service from the Randstad to Twente consists of a half-hourly Intercity terminating at Enschede. The station in Enschede is built as a terminal station, facing west to the rest of the Netherlands. The line across the border was closed from 1981 to 2001, and is now run as a separate railway, with a single platform built alongside an office building. There is no track connection between the two systems.

The Intercity starts at Den Haag or Schiphol Airport (passengers to/from Amsterdam Centraal must change in Amersfoort). Four times a day, this service is replaced by an international train to Berlin, which acts as an Intercity train in the Netherlands. However, since the line toward Hannover and Berlin branches off at Hengelo, these four trains do not go to Enschede. They use the line to Salzbergen and Rheine via Bad Bentheim. There are no other services across the border here, because the voltage changes at Bad Bentheim, and neither country will pay for dual-system trains. From Rheine, the east-west line continues to Osnabrück and Hannover. The local service, Regionalbahn 61, turns south after Osnabrück, to terminate at Bielefeld. The proposed new link from Ochtrup to Rheine, would allow local, regional and European services to connect at Enschede, the largest city in Twente. Regionalbahn 61 (or its successor) can then serve Enschede, and the line through Bad Bentheim would have a local service with dual-system units, for instance Münster – Rheine – Hengelo.

The starting point of the new high-speed line, would be a new Enschede station – probably below street level since the alignment in central Enschede has many level-crossings. The station would be designed for through services, although it could include terminal platforms on the southern side (roughly the site of the present station). About 1 km east of the station, the line enters a tree-lined cutting, through residential areas. The only way to construct a 4-track line here, is in shallow tunnel. The line curves slightly here, but there should be sufficient clearance for easing the curve, if necessary.

central-enschede

East of Enschede, the line passes the Euregio business park, and housing at Glanerbrug. Here too, there should be sufficient clearance for a 4-track cut-and-cover tunnel. In Gronau itself the station area is wide enough to accommodate the upgraded line. East of the station, the alignment passes through a low-density residential area, where some demolition along the line will be inevitable.

gronau-alignment

From there the line continues in a straight line toward Ochtrup, and this section would be 4-tracked. The new high-speed alignment would diverge on the south side of the line, toward Bundesstrasse 54. From that point the existing line to Ochtrup and beyond would be double-track (and electrified). The link alignment shown is indicative only. The proposed HSL to Hannover would diverge west or east of Ochtrup.

The Münster HSL would follow the B54 south of Ochtrup, on its northern side. It would then turn almost due east, to avoid the low hills at Burgsteinfurt. Then it would turn south-east, around Steinfurt-Borghorst, toward Münster.

ochtrup-bypass….ochtrup-steinfurt

The alignments shown are schematic. From near Steinfurt-Borghorst, to the junction with the Ems valley rail line, the alignment crosses open, flat countryside,. It can be as near to a straight line, as local details will allow. It would join the line from Enschede, where it crosses the former Max-Clemens-Kanal, north of Münster-Kinderhaus. The HSL would run alongside the existing line for about 2 km, to its junction with the main Ems valley line. From there, the line would be 4-tracked into Münster Hauptbahnhof.

maxklemens-junction

The new alignment would be about 65 km long, from Enschede to Münster. Aligned for 300 km/h on the new sections, the line should allow a journey time of under 25 minutes. The average speed of the Talent diesel units, on the existing single-track line, is only 50 km/h. With a high-speed route through Zwolle, an Amsterdam – Münster journey should take about 90 minutes. At present it takes 4 hours 20 minutes, including a 50-minute wait at Enschede: in the other direction it takes 3 hours 23 minutes.

Twente – Münster high-speed line

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