This is the second part of a proposal for a coastal rail line from Calais to Oostende. The first part described the upgrading of the existing line from Calais to Dunkerque, a new line through Dunkerque, and re-opening of the line to Adinkerke. This part describes the line from there to Oostende, along the Flemish coastal resorts.
The line would run parallel to the existing coastal tramway, but about 500m to 2000m inland. The coast here is a single beach, backed by dunes. Most of it is built-up – there are only only 65 km of coast, for a Belgian population of over 10 million. The older villages were at the inland edge of the dunes, and often a second village developed at the beach itself, with a similar name (for instance Westende and Westende-Bad).
The cross-border section of the line is disused. The station at Adinkerke (officially Station De Panne) is at present the terminus of Belgian line 73, which runs inland toward Gent. The new line could simply diverge at Adinkereke, to run parallel tot the coast, but that alignment is at present blocked by Koksijde air base. The new line could diverge at the existing ‘Koksijde station’, which is in fact on the northern edge of Veurne (population 8 500). It would then turn 90 degrees, around the air base, and turn north-east to Oostduinkerke. That station would service the old village, and the resort of Oostduinkerke-Bad, with a total of 8 500 inhabitants.
The airbase could be smaller, however. It has two runways, but it is now only used by helicopters. If the northern half was closed, the new line could run at the edge of Koksijde, and continue parallel to the dunes, to Oostduinkerke. In that case, it would have a station on the road between Veurne and Koksijde-Bad (population 6 000), possibly another at the old village of Koksijde (population 3 500), and again at Oostduinkerke.
From Oostduinkerke, the new line would continue to Nieuwpoort (population 9 500), near the mouth of the IJzer river. The town is about 3 km from the coast, and the coastal tram turns inland to pass it. (There is no bridge at the mouth of the river).
An alignment alongside the old town would be too far inland. Instead, the new line would cross the river, halfway between the beach and the old town, even though this area is less developed.
The alignment could follow the Victorlaan, crossing the river in tunnel. The Nieuwpoort station would be at the southern edge of Nieuwpoort-Bad, at the Nieuwpoort-IJzermonde tram stop. Alternatively, the line could run further south, with a station at the road junction south of Groenendijk (alignment shown in green). Neither location is within walking distance of the old town, or the beach.
East of the river, the new line would turn slightly, toward the coast. It would emerge from tunnel at the N34, and pass through caravan parks north of Westende. There would be a station at Strandlaan / Jasparlaan, between Westende and Westende-Bad.
After Westende, the new line would follow the highway along the dune edge, the N318. At Middelkerke, a tunnel would be ideal: the station could be at the Town Hall, exactly in the centre of the town. However, the old road is curved here, so a tunnel can not follow it. An alignment at the southern edge of Middelkerke is simpler: the station is still close to town and beach. The total municipal population of Middelkerke (including Westende) is 18 000.
Depending on the alignment in Middelkerke, the line would continue either along the N318, or about 500 m south of it. About 4 km on, a station at Raversijde (population 1 500) would also serve Oostende airport. (The station might be next to the N381, about 300 m from the terminal)
About 500 m east of the terminal, the new line would enter the built-up area of Oostende. With 70 000 inhabitants, this is the largest city on the coast, between Dunkerque and Rotterdam. The line would run in tunnel, following the Nieuwpoortsesteenweg, Pieterslaan and Vindictivelaan, toward the station. Although this alignment is almost straight, the streets are narrow: the line can use two parallel tunnels, north and south of the street alignment. There would be one intermediate station in the Westerkwartier, and possibly another at Mariakerke.
The tunnels would end at a terminal station, partly under the quaysides of an old dock basin, and partly under the square at the existing Oostende Station.
There is no point in extending the tunnel further, since this is a natural interchange point. Oostende Station is the terminus of Intercity services from Antwerpen (Antwerp) and Brussels (Bruxelles / Brussel), via Gent and Brugge. (It was built as a ferry terminal, with a quayside next to the station). Any new line eastwards (toward Knokke) could start from the existing main line, on the eastern edge of Oostende. In any case, improvement of the coastal tram may be the best option, in that direction: see Oostende – Brugge – Knokke triangle.
Depending on whether it starts at Adinkerke or Veurne, the new alignment would be 27 to 30 km long. With 6-8 intermediate stations on a completely new line, journey time would be under 30 minutes. For comparison, the coastal tram line takes 78 minutes for the journey between Adinkerke and Oostende stations.