It may be a surprise to some, but there were once official plans for a high-speed rail line (HSL), from Antwerpen (Antwerp) to Eindhoven. The line was planned alongside the E34 motorway (A21/A67), leaving the motorway to enter Eindhoven from the north. The alignment is shown on older regional plans in the Netherlands. The line has completely disappeared from the political agenda, but this is a very logical route. It would connect Antwerpen (population 510 000, with 1,8 million in the Province) to Eindhoven (population 220 000, urban region 745 000). Trains could continue to the Ruhr via Venlo, but that would require a high-speed route to Venlo, and preferably a new high-speed line east of Venlo.
An alignment alongside an existing motorway is easier to plan and construct, and the HSL could share the exit line from Antwerpen with an Antwerpen – Hasselt HSL. However, the E34 is not the shortest route to Eindhoven. The main stations in Antwerpen and Eindhoven are 78 km apart in a straight line, which would be entirely north of the E34. A line along the motormay would serve Turnhout, but the station would be at the edge of the built-up area. Passengers would use a local train (or bus) to the centre, losing the time saved on the HSL.
For these reason, a more northern alignment may be preferable. It has the advantage of sharing the existing HSL out of Antwerpen, as far as Brecht. The line would run east to Eindhoven, and through Eindhoven Airport to join the main line from Utrecht.
In theory a HSL can also run from Brecht to Turnhout, and then follow the E34. However, that would make the line even longer, in return for a badly-sited station at Turnhout. It would also cross the urban sprawl around commuter villages, which is typical of Flanders, and especially the Kempen region. An alignment north of Turnhout could run mainly through farmland and forest. (In the Netherlands, there is less sprawl, and the villages are more compact).
Approaching Eindhoven the high-speed line would leave the E34 anyway. In the older proposals, it would turn north-east to avoid the built-up area. That would allow the HSL to serve the airport, although when those plans were made, it was still a military base with no civilian traffic. Running the HSL along the E34, then north to the airport, will make it longer still. There is an alternative, which was not considered in the older plans – a tunnel into central Eindhoven. To reach the tunnel, the HSL would diverge from the E34, near junction 32 at Eersel.
An alignment in tunnel through Eindhoven is difficult to connect to the existing platforms at Eindhoven Station. However, if new platforms are built under the road in front of the station, then there is a possible alignment through Veldhoven, with limited demolition near the station. In Veldhoven and Gestel, it would use a strip of open space (apparently the planned alignment of a road). Some of that alignment has been built over, but no substantial demolition would be needed, as far as the Limburglaan (inner ring road). Most of the urban section would be in cut-and-cover tunnel.
HSL through Veldhoven: base map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC3.0 licence…
At the open spaces around the municipal Sportpark, the line would turn toward the Philips Stadium, passing the school at the edge of the park. It would then turn toward the east-west line of the Stationsweg, a wide street parallel to the rail line. Apart from one wing of an office block on Mathildelaan, only limited demolition of low-rise housing is needed. The area is being redeveloped, however. In some places demolition of new housing might be required, and the redesigned square 18 Septemberplein would be a construction site again, for several years.
Near the Philips Stadium, the line would cross the alignment of the proposed regional metro Veldhoven – Nuenen, also used by trains from the proposed Hasselt – Eindhoven line. These lines can be kept operationally separate from the HSL, although the Veldhoven – Nuenen line might parallel the HSL through Veldhoven itself.
The high-speed trains would stop at a new underground station, under the Stationsweg. That is sufficiently close to the existing station, to be operated as part of it. East of the underground platforms, the new line can rise to the existing embankment, in a connecting tunnel. Depending on the exact alignment, the line should be about 85-90 km long, and an Antwerpen – Eindhoven journey time of 30 minutes should be feasible.