Upgrading of the Arnhem – Oberhausen line, along the right bank of the Rhine, has been planned for decades. Although high-speed ICE trains to Köln (Cologne) and Frankfurt use the route, they travel at half their maximum speed, and often less than that.
A high-speed line (HSL) should be a priority: this is the historical main route from the Netherlands to Germany. A HSL Arnhem – Oberhausen would extend the long-planned HSL-Oost (Utrecht – Arnhem). The Amsterdam – Utrecht line is already upgraded for 200 km/h.
Extra capacity on the Oberhausen line is also needed, for freight from Rotterdam via the Betuwe route. It bypasses Arnhem, and joins the Oberhausen line at Zevenaar. A parallel HSL would increase capacity on the existing line, although it must be upgraded anyway.
A new HSL would generally follow the existing alignment: more Ausbaustrecke than Neubaustrecke. The line was built in 1856, and typically has straight sections with relatively sharp curves. Except for a possible bypass of Emmerich, this is preferable to a new alignment along the E35 motorway (A12 in the Netherlands, BAB3 in Germany).
Line and service pattern
The line Arnhem – Oberhausen is 92 km long. The 27 km south of Wesel is generally urban, part of the Ruhr agglomeration. There are long-term plans for an S-Bahn line to Wesel (S20 from Düsseldorf). Wesel (population 60 000) is a logical terminus for an S-Bahn line, at the edge of the urban region.
Emmerich (population 30 000), is the other intermediate centre on the line. It is 31 km from Arnhem, and the logical terminus for an urban-regional service from Arnhem. At present, however, there is no regular train service Arnhem – Emmerich, and no bus service either.
The 34-km section between Wesel and Emmerich has 6 stations. It is served by the RE5 from Koblenz, and the peak-hour RB35 from Düsseldorf. Despite the difference in category, they both serve all stations. With a parallel S-Bahn line Oberhausen – Wesel, the RE5 could stop at Dinslaken, Wesel, and all stations to Emmerich. This pattern requires an additional fast service between Arnhem and Wesel (65 km).
The greatest obstacle on the existing line, is the section through Arnhem itself. The western approach to Arnhem Station is wide enough, but on the eastern side, the line passes the edge of the city centre. Because of local opposition, widening to 4 tracks has been abandoned, and that would be a minimum anyway. The line carries trains to Zwolle, to Hengelo, and to Doetinchem: it would have trains to Kleve via the proposed Elten – Kleve line.
The flat junction with the Zwolle line, 3 km from Arnhem Station, is already being grade-separated, but would need complete reconstruction. Trains toward Emmerich should have 4 tracks available through Arnhem, and across the IJssel river.
On the other side of the IJssel, the line passes through Westervoort, Duiven and Zevenaar. These expanded villages form part of the Arnhem urban area, but the rail line is under-used. Despite the parallel motorway, the existing alignment is the best option. In Duiven and Zevenaar, there is enough room for a 4-track line: Zevenaar station already has 4 tracks. The railway would preferably be in tunnel or cutting here. (The Betuwe line through Zevenaar is already in tunnel, for environmental reasons). The alignment must allow for a grade-separated junction on the edge of Zevenaar, with both the Betuwe line, and the line to Doetinchem. For more detail, see the separate post on upgrading this section.
The line through Elten and Emmerich is a problem. Elten is at the edge of a ridge (Montferland), and the old road and the railway curve around it, just above the Rhine floodplain. The motorway avoids this constricted site by cutting through the ridge, 2 km further from the river. A bored tunnel through the ridge would be difficult (it consists of glacially deposited sand and gravel).
If the new line follows the motorway, it can not connect easily to the line into Emmerich. In any case, there is another curve just before Emmerich Station. The best option is a long bypass of Elten and Emmerich. It would leave the existing line at Babberich, join the Autobahn at junction 2, and rejoin the existing line at Millingen. This new alignment would be about 23 km long.
If that was unacceptable, then the HSL could pass Elten on a new curve, on viaduct in the floodplain. With some demolition, the curve at Emmerich station could be passed in a shallow tunnel. This option also requires realignment of the curve at Millingen.
Between Millingen and Wesel, the line is almost straight: two curves need improvement. This section is mainly through open farmland: the alignment can be widened, with the new fast tracks on the eastern side. The new tracks would dive under the junction at Millingen, with the proposed Münster – Kleve – Nijmegen line. The junction with the line from Bocholt, would be relocated, as part of the proposed regional line Winterswijk – Bocholt – Wesel.
The next problem is the passage of Wesel: the station is located on a long S-curve through the city. The solution is a 5-km tunnel under the east side of the city, and under the River Lippe. The fast tracks, still on the eastern side of the old line, would drop into a cut-and-cover tunnel near the northern ring road (Nordstrasse). The line would continue in bored tunnel, about 20-30m under the generally low-rise housing of eastern Wesel. It would pass, approximately, east of the circular sports hall (Rundsporthalle).
On the other side of the Lippe, the line would surface just before the existing rail bridge, over the Wesel-Datteln-Kanal. Again the new tracks would be on the east side of the line. The curve south of the canal (after Friedrichsfeld Station) can easily be re-aligned, the adjoining land is unbuilt. South of Friedrichsfeld, there is also room for a junction with the existing line.
From here to Oberhausen, the area becomes increasingly urbanised. There is some railway land, which can be used to widen the line to 4 tracks, but some demolition would also be needed. With replacement of all level crossings, and diversion of freight to the parallel Walsum line, a line speed of over 200 km/h should be possible. At Sterkrade, the curve can be realigned alongside the former mine, west of the tracks.
The final curve, into Oberhausen Station, can probably not be re-aligned. That is not an issue, as it is just before the platforms, but the junctions with the lines from Bottrop and from Dortmund must be grade-separated.
Oberhausen Hauptbahnhof has 5 island platforms, which should be enough for all possible traffic. This is the junction with the main lines from Münster and Dortmund, with the S2, S3, RE3 and RE5, and with several Regionalbahn lines. Duisburg Hauptbahnhof, 8 km further, is a more important junction, but Oberhausen is large enough (population 215 000) for all trains to stop.
The line south along the Rhine to Köln is not described further here. Much of it has already been upgraded, but there are limits to upgrading in a heavily urbanised region. There are also five major stations within 72 km: Oberhausen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf airport, Düsseldorf, and Köln.
Given the straight alignments of the old line Arnhem – Oberhausen, a line speed of 300 km/h should be possible on a parallel HSL, at least on its middle section. An Arnhem – Oberhausen journey time of 32-35 minutes should then be possible.