Ems-tunnel Delfzijl – Emden

This proposal would create a new regional rail line, from Groningen to Emden via Delfzijl. That requires a 10-km rail tunnel, under the estuary of the River Ems (Eems in Dutch). The existing rail connection is indirect (via Leer), and of low quality. The new tunnel is also intended to link the three port zones in the estuary: Eemshaven, Delfzijl and Emden, and connect them all to the Ems valley rail line. That requires a connecting freight line from Delfzijl to Eemshaven, along the N33. In Groningen, a freight-only bypass would connect the new line, to the main line south (via Assen).

The tunnel is not intended as part of a high-speed line from Groningen. The earlier proposal for a Groningen – Bremen HSL uses a route south of the estuary. The tunnel would carry a limited regional service. It would be operated as part of the rail network around Emden, and passenger trains would go no further than Groningen. The line would be electrified on the present German system, or on 25 kV AC, the European standard.

Click to enlarge…

new rail line Groningen - Emden with Ems tunnel

There is already a tunnel under the Ems: a gas pipeline tunnel, using the shortest possible line (Knock – Borgsweer).

If a new rail tunnel was only intended for freight, then it could be built on a similar alignment, and would be about 6-7 km long, including approaches. The alignment proposed here is longer, to allow a Groningen – Delfzijl – Emden service. The alignment between Groningen and the centre of Delfzijl would be about 29 km long, and from there to Emden Hauptbahnhof 19-20 km – about 50 km in total. The line speed on new sections would be 150 km/h.

The new line for passengers would begin at an underground station, under the square in front of Groningen Station . From there, the line would run in immersed tube tunnel, under the canal parallel to the station. This canal (Verbindingskanaal) connects at the edge of the city centre to the Eemskanaal, the main canal to the sea at Delfzijl. There would be no track connection between the tunnel and the station: that would be via the freight link (see below).

The line could continue in immersed tube tunnel, to the edge of the built-up area. However, it could also diverge south, with an alignment on viaduct along the Sontweg / Driebondweg. Part of it could also use the north quayside of the Eemskanaal, avoiding conflict with a proposed tram tunnel.

Click to enlarge…

new rail line to Emden with underground platforms at Groningen station

A single-track freight link would connect the new line, to the main line from Assen and Zwolle. The simplest option is to use the old port railway alignment, along Bornholmstraat and behind the new stadium Euroborg. Although this former industrial area is being redeveloped, there are no plans to build over the alignment. A new curve in tunnel would link it to either the immersed tube tunnel, or to the surface alignment along Driebondweg.

Click to enlarge: the line out of Groningen, immersed tube alignment in Eemskanaal in blue, freight link in green…

new rail line Groningen - Delfzijl - Emden in tunnel under Eemskanaal

The combined passenger and freight line would turn, after the bridge at Ruischerbrug, to follow the main road to Delfzijl, the N360. For the first 8 km, this road is almost straight. It is built on the north side of the old canal to Delfzijl (Damsterdiep) – the new rail line would be on its south bank. In the village of Ten Boer, the road and canal would be realigned, and the rail line would use their former alignment. With a population of 4500, the village is large enough for a station.

After Ten Boer, the old canal winds through several small villages. A rail alignment on the north side of the N360 is the best option here. The bypass road adjoins open fields, and only a few bridges are needed. At km 21, the new line would turn away from the road, to join the 1884 Groningen – Delfzijl line, outside Appingedam. Since the new line would be shorter, the existing service via Bedum would probably disappear, allowing full use of the old alignment.

Click to enlarge…

new rail line toward Delfzijl and Ems tunnel

From Appingedam, the old railway follows a straight line to the centre of Delfzijl. This is an old port, and the terminal station is just before the sea dike. (The port line continues, curving around the town centre). Some trains to Delfzijl would continue to serve the old station: logically, they would also serve Ten Boer and Appingedam. The line to Emdem can not serve the town centre station, because it must descend into tunnel.

The undersea tunnel would be at least 30 m deep. The deepest channel of the Ems is in the middle of the estuary, but there is a secondary channel about 600 m offshore, 800 m from Delfzijl station. The tunnel gradients must allow for freight trains, so the portal would be at least 1200 m west of this station. A station on the western edge of Delfzijl would allow interchange with local bus services. It might be on the site of the existing Delfzijl West station, or possibly further west. From Groningen, there would be two services: Groningen – Ten Boer – Appingedam – Delfzijl West – Delfzijl, and a faster service Groningen – Delfzijl West – Emden.

Click to enlarge…

Tunnel under the Ems / Eems estuary, rail line Groningen - Emden

On the other side of the estuary, the optional alignment would have a tunnel portal near the main drainage pump at Knock. As it surfaced, the line would be parallel to the drainage canal, behind the radar tower. It would then turn east, cross the canal, and pass just north of Wybelsum. (A station is possible, but it has only 1500 inhabitants). The new line would enter Emden along the Larrelter Strasse.

Click to enlarge…

rail line to Emden from Ems tunnel, via Wybelsum and Larrelt

In the built-up area, the Larrelter Strasse is wide enough for a viaduct. There is not enough room for a curve into the station, but the line can use a new platform, beside the road bridge south of the station. It would be at right angles to the existing platforms, and about 100 m from them. Freight traffic would use an existing curve south-west, to the main line. Emden Hauptbahnhof is a modern station, west of the city centre, on the line to Norddeich. (It replaced an older terminal station on the south side).

Emden Hauptbahnhof: public domain image.

Emden station

To complete the project, the Ems tunnel should be connected directly to the Eemshaven, a deep-sea port built in the 1970’s. A new single-track freight line would diverge from the Emden – Groningen line, between Delfzijl and Appingedam. It would follow the N33 almost exactly – on the west side of the road, almost 100% open fields. The line would enter the port zone from the east: the existing siding from the Roodeschool line serves only the west side.

Click to enlarge…

freight line from Delfzijl to Eemshaven, linked to Ems tunnel

With an additional west-to north curve at the junction, this would be the only port line. (The existing line to Roodeschool would become a regional metro ).

With a mainly new line, Groningen – Emden journey times would be under 30 minutes. Groningen – Delfzijl trains would take about 20 minutes, as opposed to 38 minutes at present.

Ems-tunnel Delfzijl – Emden

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