High-speed rail line Groningen – Bremen

The planned Amsterdam- Groningen high-speed rail line (Zuiderzeelijn) was officially abandoned in 2007. That has ended, for the time being, discussion of an extension to Bremen and Hamburg. (See HSL bypass van Heerenveen). The proposal here simply considers the alignment of a possible high-speed rail line (HSL), from Groningen to Bremen. (The connecting HSL Bremen – Hamburg has to be considered along with the projected Y-Trasse, from Hannover to Hamburg and Bremen).

The HSL would cross open landscape: Oudeschans, Groningen…

Oudeschans

 
Groningen (population 185 000) is a provincial capital, and largest city of the northern Netherlands. Bremen (population 550 000, agglomeration 860 000) is the largest city between Hamburg and Amsterdam. The line would also serve Oldenburg (population 160 000, 45 km west of Bremen).

The existing line west of Bremen is relatively straight, and double-track as far as Oldenburg. At Leer, it joins the Ems valley line from Münster and Dortmund. A single-track local line connects Leer to Groningen, diverging from the Ems valley line at Ihrhove. The great circle distance between Groningen station and Bremen Hbf is 151 km – a line passing north of the A7 motorway at Scheemda, and north of Weener. Assuming that a high-speed line would follow the existing alignment through Bad Zwischenahn, the shortest route is still north of Scheemda. However, that is the maximum subsidence zone, of the Slochteren gas field. (See the NAM forecast subsidence map, page 10). In any case, an exit line from Groningen would probably first follow the existing line, to the south-east. The alignment proposed here is therefore south of Hoogezand and Winschoten. From Winschoten it would run in a very direct route, to join the existing alignment toward Oldenburg.

For the first 3 km from Groningen, trains would use the (upgraded and 4-tracked) line to Assen. The new line would then run alongside the line to Winschoten. At Foxhol, the line would diverge, on a new alignment between Hoogezand and Kropswolde, and then turn east, through open polder.

foxhol-hsl

 
The line would pass north of Muntendam and south of Meeden, and continue almost due east toward Winschoten. A connecting line might run to Winschoten station, allowing a fast regional service. The optimal alignment for the HSL is as close as possible to Winschoten. With limited demolition that can be at the exact edge of the built-up area. The line could run further south (shown in blue) but that would be longer.

winschoten-hsl

 
East of Winschoten, the new line would again run in an almost straight line, passing just north of Oudeschans, to an Ems river tunnel south of Weener. The existing line Weener – Ihrhove would be re-routed through this tunnel, which would be 3-track or 4-track. East of the Ems, the new line would turn north-east to avoid Westoverledingen, and it would cross the Ems valley line. There would be a connection to Leer, replacing the the one at Ihrhove: it would be used by Groningen – Leer – Emden trains, and by freight. There would be another connection from Leer south-east to the new line, allowing fast Bremen – Emden services.

Click to enlarge…

winschoten-weener

weener….ems-crossing

After the northern edge of Westoverledingen, the line would pass under Backemoor, and then run in an almost straight line, to join the existing alignment toward Oldenburg. That could be either west of Augustfehn, or east of Apen. The second option (blue line) avoids a line in tunnel through the two villages, and is preferable.

Click to enlarge…

backemoor….apen

The line would then follow the existing alignment to Oldenburg, either as a new parallel line (NBS), or on an upgraded 4-track line (ABS). The alignment is straight: the curve east of Oldenburg Hauptbahnhof is not a problem, since all trains would stop there.

Oldenburg station and city centre…

On the 44 km between Oldenburg and Bremen very high speeds offer little benefit, but the existing alignment can be improved, especially at Hude. The options are a by-pass of Hude and Bookholzberg (red line), or a by-pass of Delmenhorst (blue line). A new high-speed section, exiting Delmenhorst station to the west, is possible with limited demolition.

Click to enlarge: bypass Hude and HSL exit from Delmenhorst…

bypass-hude

In Bremen, the existing alignment would be 4-tracked, with a new bridge over the Weser. The alignment approaching the station is restricted: it could perhaps be improved in combination with a new bridge, but the line will still make a right-angle turn, between river and station.

Click to enlarge…

bremen….realign-bremen

The Groningen – Winschoten section would be about as long as the existing line, around 35 km. The section from there to Oldenburg via Apen would be about 82 – 85 km, and a by-pass on the Oldenburg – Bremen line would shorten it, to about 42-43 km. Total length would be about 160-165 km. With new lines built for up to 350 km/h, a Groningen – Bremen journey time of one hour would be feasible, even with one stop in Oldenburg.

High-speed rail line Groningen – Bremen

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