The 29-km Nijmegen – Kleve railway closed in 1991, but there are official plans to re-open it. They are limited in scope: the most recent was for a low-frequency diesel ‘tram’ line. No funds have been allocated yet.
New and upgraded rail lines, in the region around Nijmegen and Kleve, were proposed here earlier. That context justifies a double-track electrified regional rail line between the two. The line might form part of a longer regional line to Xanten and Wesel, but this post is about the Nijmegen – Kleve section only.
The line on the ridge at Wolfsberg, and the former halt at Donsbrüggen…
A substantially upgraded line would require new infrastructure, with a new tunnel through Kleve (described separately). That would keep the line separate from the regional tram line proposed here earlier, which follows the road between Nijmegen and Kleve.
Geography and alignment
Nijmegen and Kleve lie on a ridge extending southeast from the Waal (a Rhine distributary). Nijmegen was built where the ridge meets the river, and Kleve on the east flank. The most logical route is along the east flank, through Kranenburg. That is the route of the main road, since Roman times. However, Nijmegen station was built on the west flank of the ridge. To avoid the highest part of the ridge (100 m elevation), the rail line therefore runs south, and then turns east towards Kranenburg.
A new railway along the east flank is technically feasible, but it would not connect to the existing station in Nijmegen. A restored service would therefore use the existing alignment, with local modifications. The alignment is available – most of the track is still in place. Some of it is used for recreational draisines.
From Nijmegen station, the alignment is first shared with the Maas valley line to Venlo. The line to Kleve originally had a third track, alongside the Maas valley line. The earlier proposals here for a high-speed rail line Nijmegen – Köln and upgrading of the Maas line, require four tracks on this section. The only station, at the university campus (Heyendaal), would also be reconstructed.
About 7 km from Nijmegen Station, the line to Kleve diverges, and turns east toward Groesbeek. The junction is in the forest south of Nijmegen: there is no junction station.
Kleve line, Maas valley line visible on the left, with signal post…
The line crosses the ridge in a cutting: there is more than enough room for extra tracks here. One track is still in place, with a new cycle path alongside it. The line then enters Groesbeek, on the east side of the ridge. The alignment is clear of buildings, but it passes through the centre of the village (population 12 000). The former station area is now an open space: a new double-track line would be intrusive. However, the slight eastward slope would allow a subsurface station, without steep gradients on the line. A new underpass is also needed, on the east ring road.
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From Groesbeek, the line runs straight toward Kranenburg, at the edge of the Rhine floodplain. The terrain slopes gently from 30 to 15 m elevation. A sharp curve at the edge of the village can be improved, and the alignment through the station is straight. It is generally well separated from new housing, with enough room for an underpass at two level crossings. On the eastern edge, a few houses adjoin the line, and might need demolition for double-tracking. The station itself is 5 minutes walk from the small historic centre of Kranenburg (population 4000). That is a good reason to retain the alignment, although it would be possible to reroute it.
Click to enlarge…
The track east of Kranenburg is still fully maintained, for the draisines. The line first passes under the B504 road, and here two curves should be improved. Re-alignment can probably be combined with a new over-bridge for the main road, which crosses the line here. (The bridge would carry the regional tram line over the railway). The rail alignment is now very close to the exact edge of the Rhine floodplain.
The line then passes the villages of Nütterden and Donsbrüggen, which both had simple halts on the old line. Only one new station would be justified, on an upgraded regional line. Nütterden is bigger, with 3000 inhabitants, but a station at Donsbrüggen (1500 inhabitants) is better located, since most traffic will be toward Kleve.
There is a sharp curve just before the former Donsbrüggen halt: it is now surrounded by new housing, and can not easily be realigned. With a new station here, the curve is not a problem, since trains will stop anyway.
The level crossing could be replaced by new bridge, 300 m further east. At Nütterden and Donsbrüggen, most new housing is south of the main road, but a few houses are too close to the line, and would probably be demolished.
About 2 km from Donsbrüggen, the line passes the Tiergarten park, at the edge of Kleve. A double track line through these Baroque gardens is unacceptable, so the line would enter a tunnel, even though there is no adjacent housing. The tunnel in Kleve is described separately: it would end at Bahnhof Kleve, the current terminus of the Linksniederrheinische Strecke.
The present end of the line: Bahnhof Kleve in the background…
The line from Nijmegen was conceived as part of this ‘left-bank Lower Rhine route’ from Köln, via Kempen and Krefeld. That does not necessarily mean that trains will run on the old route, if the line to Nijmegen is restored. The proposed HSL Nijmegen – Köln would displace its original function, and there are alternative routes, which are not considered further here.
There are no major problems with reopening of the Nijmegen – Kleve line, at least outside Kleve. In the forest south of Nijmegen, much of the line is in cutting. Between Groesbeek and Kleve, many minor roads cross the line, but most level crossings can be eliminated. The villages of Groesbeek and Kranenburg have good station sites, and enough room for double track. Kleve itself is the only place, where a regional heavy-rail option will not fit the old alignment.