A 14-km extension of S-Bahn line S28 (Düsseldorf – Neuss – Kaarst), is planned in the medium term. Construction work might begin in 2013. The planned terminus is Viersen, but it might also be Mönchengladbach – in both cases, the line could use old railway alignments. There is local opposition to the plans, including a classic case of NIMBY.
Extension to Viersen (population 76 000), is the most logical option for the S28 – because line S8 already links Neuss to Mönchengladbach. It would also allow further extension to Venlo, replacing the low-frequency RE13 (at present it runs to Mönchengladbach, where passengers must change). The S28 would then run parallel to the proposed high-speed rail line Venlo – Neuss.
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The railway north-west from Neuss to Viersen, was built by the Rheinische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft in 1878. It was built alongside the Nordkanal or Grand Canal du Nord, a Napoleonic canal project. Although the canal project as a whole was abandoned, the section from the Rhine at Neuss to Neersen was completed, and in use until 1850.
The Rheinische Eisenbahn alignment in western Neuss is a straight line: it does not pass through Neuss Hauptbahnhof, which was built by a competitor. The present the S28 uses a sharp connecting curve to access the Hauptbahnhof. The present terminus of the S28 is at Kaarster See, but the line followed the incomplete canal to Neersen station, north of Mönchengladbach. There it crossed the Krefeld – Willich – Mönchengladbach line. It then turned away from the old canal, joining the present Mönchengladbach – Viersen line at Düpp.
The extension of line S28 could be combined, with re-opening of the Krefeld – Willich – Mönchengladbach line. The present RB33 between the two cities has an L-shaped route through Viersen, but it is a double-track electric line with only 3 stops. It will be converted to S-Bahn line S21. The old line via Willich is shorter, but it would have more stops. The curve into Mönchengladbach Hbf has been built over (commercial zone at Süchtelner Strasse).
For interchange with the S28, the only option seems re-opening of Neersen station. However, it is 1500 m from the centre of Neersen itself, and now on the other side of the A52 / A44 Autobahn junction, on the northern edge of Mönchengladbach. Its interchange function would be limited to local traffic, because the four main interchange destinations have alternative direct routes.
If there is no interchange with the Krefeld – Mönchengladbach line, the the S28 could have a new route closer to Neersen (population 7000) and Schiefbahn (12 000), on the north side of the A52. It would join the old alignment near the Kaarster See. The logical station site in Neersen is on the Hauptstrasse, in Schiefbahn at the Linsellesstraße. In both cases, the old stations were further out on the same street – 800 m further in Neersen, 500 m further in Schiefbahn. In Viersen, a new station is possible at its eastern edge, at the Bachstrasse.
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The S28 extension to Mönchengladbach was also supposed to serve the so-called “Düsseldorf-Mönchengladbach Airport“. In reality, Düsseldorf Airport is on the other side of the Rhine, and this is an airfield with no scheduled flights. It is facing closure anyway, so there is no reason for the extra tunnel, which would be needed to serve it.
The official planning does not include substantial upgrading of the line. The present S28 is operated by Talent diesel units, on single track to Kaarst. The 22-km Viersen – Venlo line was once an international route: it is electrified, but mainly single-track. Stations are simple and run-down.
The whole line from Neuss to Venlo needs a complete upgrade, to a double-track electrified line. Level crossings should be eliminated, and the junctions at Düpp and Neuss (Stephanstrasse) grade-separated. That would allow an S-Bahn service with a 15-minute frequency. A fast service Venlo – Viersen – Mönchengladbach is also needed, with a higher frequency than the present RE13. At Venlo (population 92 000), these services would connect with the proposed HSL Eindhoven – Venlo, and regional services from Eindhoven and Nijmegen. Venlo would also be the terminus of a regional line from Krefeld, sharing track with the S-Bahn for the last 5 km.
The Neuss – Venlo section is 44 km long, and it is another 11 km from Neuss to Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof. The average speed of electric S-Bahn services in the region ranges from 40-60 km/h. On a fully upgraded line, a Düsseldorf – Venlo journey time of under an hour is certainly feasible.