This proposed regional line from Nijmegen to Wesel was not built, or operated, as a single line in the past. However, it would be built mainly on old rail alignments, such as Nijmegen – Kleve, Kleve – Xanten, and Birten – Wesel. It requires a new Rhine tunnel at Wesel, and it incorporates 4 km of line south of Xanten, which is still in use. The proposal assumes the construction of the proposed new rail line Kleve – Elten with a new Rhine tunnel. Trains from Krefeld on the Linksniederrheinische Strecke via Kempen would then continue to Arnhem, rather than use the old rail line from Kleve to Nijmegen.
Local residents and the association VIEV (Vereniging voor Innovatief Euregionaal Vervoer) have campaigned for re-opening of the line Nijmegen – Kleve, as a light-rail line. Re-opening of the Kleve – Xanten section has also been proposed locally. However, there is also local opposition to re-activation of the lines. See Railverbinding Nijmegen – Duisburg/Düsseldorf: acht argumenten voor een actieve opstellling for an assessment a Nijmegen – Düsseldorf service. (Herman Katteler, ITS/Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. 2005)
A high-speed rail line Nijmegen – Köln would offer an alternative for inter-regional traffic, on both the Linksniederrheinische Strecke and the Niederrheinstrecke, Kleve – Xanten – Duisburg. However, local services along the closed lines still make sense. So, instead of going on to Krefeld or Duisburg, trains from Nijmegen could cross the Rhine to Wesel. That would create a new regional rail link, halfway between the Ruhr and Arnhem/Nijmegen.
It is not entirely new, since the former Boxteler Bahn crossed the Rhine into Wesel, using the Eisenbahnbrücke Wesel (1874, destroyed 1945). The bridge was also used by the line Venlo – Wesel – Haltern. The Boxteler Bahn did have a station at Xanten West (near Xanten station on the Niederrheinstrecke), but it was not designed for traffic Nijmegen – Wesel. The line proposed here would use part of its alignment, between Birten and Büderich. Trains over the 1874 bridge entered Wesel from the north: a new Rhine tunnel (Büderich – Wesel) would enter it from the south. At Wesel station, the new regional service would connect to the right-bank line Arnhem – Oberhausen.
The line is compatible with the earlier proposed regional tram line Kleve – Nijmegen. The tram line could use the main road (B9) between Kleve and Kranenburg, or it could run beside the rail line, and on street in Kleve itself. That would allow electrification of the rail line at 25 kV AC, which should ultimately be standard on all lines in the region.
Click to enlarge: the proposed tram line Kleve – Nijmegen…
Starting from Nijmegen (population 161 000 ), trains would use the existing line southward, stopping at Nijmegen Heyendaal, which serves the campus of Radboud University. About 4 km south, the old line to Kleve turns east, toward Groesbeek. The line was built in 1865, carried international trains to Köln until 1988, and closed in 1991: the alignment through Groesbeek and Kranenburg is intact. The 29-km line Nijmegen – Kleve section would be re-opened.
Kleve has 49 000 inhabitants, and is the administrative capital of Kreis Kleve. The line would connect here with the existing Linksniederrheinische Strecke to Krefeld via Kempen. The new line would use its tracks, for about 2 km south of Kleve, and then use the alignment of the Niederrheinstrecke to Xanten. This line was built in 1904, starting from Rheinhausen, across the river from Duisburg. It runs in an almost straight line, from there to Kleve (63,7 km). It was known (derogatively) as the Hippelandexpress: the area was rural and poor. The Kleve – Xanten section was closed in 1989, the rest is used by an hourly Duisburg – Xanten service (total distance 70 km), with additional weekday trains between Duisburg and Moers.
The Kleve – Kalkar section is a slightly curved line through the flood plain. There was a halt at Qualburg, one of the seven villages in Bedburg-Hau, but it has only 1000 inhabitants. The halt Till-Moyland served an even smaller village: it is about 1500 m from the museum at Schloss Moyland.
The next town is Kalkar (population 6 500, municipality 14 000). The alignment is clear of new construction, and a new station on the Gocher Strasse would be only 400 m from the historic centre. A cut-and-cover tunnel (about 1000-1200 m) would be preferable here. South of Kalkar, the line is built at the edge of the flood plain, climbing slightly onto the escarpment at the Monreberg. The rest of the section to Xanten (14 km) is almost straight . There would be one intermediate station at Marienbaum (2000 inhabitants) – the village is clustered around the station location.
Xanten has a total population of 21 500 (municipality) : the historic town is a tourist destination. The existing station location, about 500 m from the old city walls, should be retained. It would become an interchange station: the existing services to Duisburg would be upgraded, with higher frequencies. The curving section south of the station could be replaced by a tunnel, within the built-up area.
Just south of the town, the line ran parallel to the older alignment of the Boxteler Bahn. The double alignment to Birten is still visible: the line cuts through a low ridge here (Die Hees). At Birten (population 1800), the line to Wesel would turn due east, on the now-abandoned alignment of the Boxteler Bahn. To create a grade-separated junction, and to allow for a station at Unterbirten, the existing line could be shifted to the old alignment.
From Birten eastwards, a new section would be built on the alignment of the Boxteler Bahn, with a station at the north end of Menzelen. The original alignment then passes through sand quarries: if it is definitely cut, then it can be re-routed around them (options shown in green). An alternative is a completely new curve further south, with a station at the south end of Menzelen (white dashed line).
All these three variants (shown in blue) join the old alignment of the Venlo – Wesel line. On this alignment, there would be a station at Büderich, close to the original station site. After this station, the line would turn east to cross the Rhine, and then north into Wesel station – a completely new alignment. A bored tunnel seems the only option for this Rhine crossing. (The new road bridge, and a planned Büderich bypass, are shown in orange).
As it turns north toward the station, the final section would be in cut-and-cover tunnel, crossing under the tracks of the Oberhausen line. Some demolition is inevitable here, but this alignment does not cross much of the built-up area. The platform could be built east of the existing platforms at Wesel station, on the edge of the historic core.
Wesel has a population of 61 000, and is the capital of Kreis Wesel (located on both sides of the Rhine), with 474 000 inhabitants. The line would also connect with services along the Hollandstrecke Arnhem – Oberhausen, and also to the proposed regional rail line Winterswijk – Bocholt – Wesel.
The total route length would be about 72 km. With a station spacing of about 6 km, and a line speed of 120 km/h, a journey time of under one hour would be feasible.