New rail line Bergen op Zoom – Antwerpen

This line to Antwerpen (Antwerp) would extend the proposed new inter-regional line Rotterdam – Bergen op Zoom. Together they would form a new route Rotterdam – Antwerpen – but not as a high-speed line. (The high-speed line between the two cities runs alongside the A16 motorway, further east). 36, km long, it would be more of an urban-regional line, part of a future RER in Antwerpen (Gewestelijk ExpresNet, comparable to that under construction in Brussels). The proposed line is separate from the planned freight line to the Antwerpen port zone, but they could share an alignment between Woensdrecht en Zandvliet.

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The old main road (N289 / N11), from Bergen op Zoom to Antwerpen, runs on higher ground. West of the road is a slope at the edge of this higher ground, (Brabant Wal), eroded by the tidal river Schelde. At the foot of the slope are polders, reclaimed from the estuary. The new rail line would run 2-4 km west of the road, through these polders. There was never a rail connection between the two cities, but there was an interlocal tram, Stoomtramweg-Maatschappij Antwerpen – Bergen op Zoom – Tholen (ABT). The motorway (A4/A12) by-passes Bergen on the eastern side, and then runs through the reclaimed polders, at the edge of the Antwerpen port zone.

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From Bergen op Zoom station, trains would use the existing Zeeland line, for 5 km. The line would be upgraded, with additional tracks if necessary to increase capacity. There would be one new station, Bergen-Markiezaat, near the crossing with the Markiezaatsweg, serving new housing development.

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At km 17 (from Roosendaal), the old line turns west in a wide curve. The new line would continue southwards – almost due south. 2500 m after this junction, the line passes the edge of the higher ground. The village of Woensdrecht is built on this ‘promontory’, and there would be a station at the edge of the village (population 1600). It would also serve Hoogerheide (population 8 000), which extends 3 km from the station.

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The line would continue 4 km through flat, open agricultural land. The next station would be at Ossendrecht, which is also built on a ‘promontory’ of higher ground. Again, the station would be at the edge of the village (population 5000).

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4 km south of Ossendrecht, the line would join the alignment of the A12 motorway. The port line (Belgian line 11) runs in the median strip of the motorway: the new regional line would run on the eastern side of it. A station between Putse Baan and Steenovenstraat would serve Zandvliet and Berendrecht. Both are part of the Antwerpen municipality, and they have about 9000 inhabitants.

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After this station, the line would turn away from the motorway, north of Fort Stabroek, to pass between Stabroek and Putte. The line is now approximately on the 5-metre contour. It would cross the Stabroek – Putte road at right angles, near Hasenpad, in tunnel or on viaduct. This is the eastern edge of Stabroek itself: the station would also serve part of Putte (which is divided between two countries and three municipalities) – in total about 10 000 inhabitants.

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From this station, the line would run 4 km south-east, following the alignment of the old roads here (Hasenpad, Parijseweg). The next station would have a similar location: on the eastern edge of Hoevenen (population 5500), at right angles to the Hoevenen – Kapellen road. The existing station at Kapellen, on the Roosendaal – Antwerpen line, is about 1500 m further east. The new station would also serve part of Kapellen.

The line would now run about 2 km through agricultural land on the western side of Kapellen, with some dispersed housing. North of Schriek, it would enter tunnel: this is the only feasible option for the junction with the Roosendaal – Antwerpen line. The junction would be near Ekeren station: the tunnel must also pass under a link to the port line. The alignments shown are indicative. It may be easier to build an second (underground) station at Ekeren, and to locate the junction further south, where there is enough room.

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From the junction at Ekeren, trains would use the existing line, serving the stations at Noorderdokken and Luchtbal, and then entering the tunnel to Antwerpen-Centraal. This station has three levels – the old surface platforms, extra terminal platforms for trains from the south, and through platforms for trains via the north-south tunnel (opened 2007).

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As traffic increases, there may be capacity problems in the tunnel, also used by the high-speed trains Amsterdam – Paris. A second cross-city tunnel may be necessary, for an intensive urban-regional service.

The total length of the line, including the existing sections, would be 36 km. With 9 intermediate stops, and trains designed for an urban-regional service, journey time from Bergen op Zoom to Antwerpen would be about 35 min.

New rail line Bergen op Zoom – Antwerpen

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