Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 1

This high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke, Neubaustrecke) from Enschede to Hannover, would connect to the existing high-speed line Hannover – Berlin, creating an east-west Amsterdam – Berlin route. The proposal is a completely new line, roughly parallel to the existing main line through Osnabrück. Unlike the old line, it would avoid the hills of the Niedersächsische Bergland. Instead, it would run through the North German Plain at the foot of the hills, exactly like the east-west Mittellandkanal. The name ‘Mittelland HSL’ is therefore appropriate.

The topography of the line: extract from topographic map of Germany by Botaurus, CC 3.0 licence.

High-speed line Enschede - Hannover along Mittelland-Kanal

The new high-speed line would have no intermediate stations. Enschede is not on the existing main line: the proposal assumes construction of a HSL Amsterdam – Zwolle, and a connecting Zwolle – Twente HSL. It is logical for this new HSL to serve Enschede, the largest city in Twente. Another new HSL would extend the high-speed route to Münster.

The Mittelland HSL would diverge from that line, east of Gronau. It would pass north of Rheine, crossing the existing main line. From there, its alignment is determined by the edge of the hills, especially the tip of the Wiehengebirge, at Kalkriese. That is a strategic passage between the hills and the marsh – the probable site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (Varusschlacht).

Click to enlarge…

Mittelland-HSL from Enschede to Hannover, north of Wiehengebirge

The high-speed route from Amsterdam to Hannover would be about 355-365 km long. The section Amsterdam – Zwolle – Enschede is about 140-145 km. Depending on the alignment, the Enschede – Hannover line would be about 215-220 km long. (The Hannover – Berlin line is 258 km long).

The new line does not serve any cities. There are no major settlements: that is why there is no existing rail line on this route. The HSL would however connect to the Osnabrück – Bremen line, and to the existing main line near Minden. Part of the Minden – Hanover section would be shared with a Ruhr – Hannover high-speed route. (This section is equivalent to the planned ABS/NBS Seelze – Haste – Minden, which is suspended due to lack of funds).

The geography of the existing east-west main line was determined by the settlements. In contrast to the usual pattern, the hills were densely populated, and the plain relatively empty. From Rheine, the old line runs between the ranges Wiehengebirge and Teutoburger Wald, passing through Osnabrück (population 163 000). At Löhne, it joins the main line from the Ruhr. Together they pass through a gap in the hills near Minden, cut by the river Weser – the Porta Westfalica. The line zig-zags to serve Minden (population 82 000), and then turns toward Hannover, across flat terrain.

The new line would not pass through either Rheine or Osnabrück. It could connect to Rheine station from both east and the west, and it could provide a new route Osnabrück – Hannover, with a south-to-east curve from the Bremen line. The HSL could pass north of Minden, but possibly through the urban area, south of the centre. A HSL through the city, could be used by Minden – Hannover trains, and trains from Dortmund and Bielefeld.

The second and third part of this post describe the alignment, from west to east – but not in great detail, since it is over 200 km long:

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 1

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