Upgrading line Arnhem – Emmerich

A high-speed rail line Arnhem – Oberhausen was proposed here earlier. This post looks at the Arnhem – Emmerich section in more detail.

The line at Babberich: the proposed HSL would diverge left here…


Proposals for a high speed line (HSL) between Arnhem and the Ruhr have been circulating for decades, but the Arnhem – Oberhausen line has remained largely unchanged. It is also underused: the only regular passenger service is the two-hourly ICE Amsterdam – Köln – Frankfurt. There is freight traffic: at Zevenaar, the line connects to the new freight-only Betuwe route to Rotterdam. Nevertheless, the planned improvements to the line in Germany were never implemented. Neither the Dutch or German government is very interested in this route, which is typical for cross-border lines. The regional governments (Gelderland and Nordrhein-Westfalen) are not interested in regional services either. Although the line is electrified, it carries slow diesel trains on the Dutch side, and none beyond Emmerich on the German side.


The 31-km Arnhem – Emmerich line crosses the IJssel river at the edge of Arnhem, and then runs through the Rhine plain, about 3-5 km from the river. The terrain is flat, apart from the hill at Elten, where the line is sharply curved. On the Dutch side, the region is called the Liemers: it is urbanised between Arnhem and Zevenaar, but otherwise the line runs through farmland. The total population served by the line to Emmerich is about 100 000.

At Zevenaar, the line to Winterswijk branches from the main line. It carries a diesel service to Doetinchem, with half the trains continuing to Winterswijk. Upgrading of the main line should allow for a grade-separated junction with the Winterswijk branch, which should be electrified.

Apart from the HSL, some other proposals here are relevant. The most important is the proposed Elten – Kleve rail link, with a new Rhine bridge or tunnel. It would connect the line out of Arnhem, with the Linksniederrheinische Strecke, which at present terminates at Kleve. (The line would parallel the old Elten – Spyk – Kleve line, which crossed the Rhine by ferry).


The new link would carry an urban-regional service from Arnhem to Kleve, requiring additional capacity between Arnhem and Elten. It would also be used by a longer regional line, from Krefeld or further south. That line could run to Emmerich, using a curve east of Elten (in yellow on the map). South of the Rhine, the Nijmegen – Kleve line would be restored. That does not directly affect the line north of the river, but it would probably increase traffic on the Kleve – Elten link.

There are no passenger services between Zevenaar and Emmerich. The ICE runs non-stop from Arnhem to Oberhausen. Three long-distance night trains (EC / CNL) from Amsterdam stop at Emmerich, primarily to change locomotives. The freight-only Betuwe route runs in tunnel through Zevenaar, alongside the old main line, and surfaces at the edge of the town, 4 km from the German border.

Emmerich, 17 km from Zevenaar, is the terminus of Regional-Express line RE 5, the hourly ‘Rhein-Express’ to Köln and Koblenz. It is also served by Regionalbahn line RB 35 to Oberhausen and Duisburg, with 8 trains per day on weekdays.

Intercity to Emmerich?

In the short term, connections could be improved by extending Amsterdam – Arnhem Intercity trains to Emmerich. That requires no new infrastructure, although perhaps some adjustments to Emmerich station. (At present the voltage changes at Emmerich, but it is planned to relocate that to near Elten).

In the Netherlands, there are two domestic Intercity services to Arnhem: one from Amsterdam (starting at Den Helder), and one from Schiphol Airport. Each runs at 30-minute intervals, and they are combined into a 15-minute Intercity service from Utrecht. They all reverse in Arnhem, and run south to Nijmegen. One of these services could terminate at Emmerich, the other would still serve Nijmegen. In the long term, Regional-Express line RE 5 should be extended to Arnhem, a major rail junction. Emmerich would be served by an urban-regional service (S-Bahn) from Arnhem, connecting with the RB 35 line, or its successor.

HSL and upgrading

The proposed high-speed rail line Arnhem – Oberhausen would generally follow the existing alignment through Wesel to Oberhausen. To avoid the hill at Elten, however, a bypass of Elten and Emmerich is preferable. It would run alongside the E35 motorway (A12 in the Netherlands, BAB3 in Germany).

High-speed rail line Arnhem - Oberhausen, bypass Elten and Emmerich

The HSL would diverge from the existing line at Babberich. Nevertheless, the section through Elten and Emmerich would also need extra capacity, for the proposed new services to Kleve, for an urban-regional service Arnhem – Emmerich, and for gradually increasing freight traffic. The line can not be left in its existing state. Extra capacity wold also allow the reopening of stations at Babberich and Elten.


The first requirement is four tracks through Arnhem itself, and a grade-separated junction with the line to Deventer and Zwolle. This is a locally controversial project, because of the restricted space in residential areas at the edge of the city centre. The existing Velperpoort Station would also need to close.

The second essential is a new bridge across the IJssel river. That requires a decision on whether the new line should be built parallel to the old line (parallel Neubaustrecke), or the old line upgraded and four-tracked (Ausbaustrecke). A parallel high-speed line could diverge from the existing line inside Arnhem, and use a separate bridge over the IJssel. That might be easier to build, but a four-track line would maximise capacity here.

In any case, the new bridge should take account of the curve at Westervoort station, which should be improved, possibly shifting the line slightly northwards. The stations in Westervoort and Duiven are centrally located, but there is more than enough space for four tracks here. All level crossings would be replaced by an underpass.


The curve at the edge of Zevenaar needs improvement, which may require limited demolition. The Betuwe Route joins the line here, or more accurately, it drops into tunnel and runs alongside the older line. The junction itself is on the other side of Zevenaar. Again there is more than enough space for extra tracks here, but the tunnel prevents the replacement of level crossings by an underpass. The only other option is to lower the rail line and station: a tunnel is not necessary since the line is at the edge of the built-up area anyway.

Zevenaar: base map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC3.0 licence


There is a new housing development on the eastern side of Zevenaar (population 32 000), but it is best served by a new station on the Doetinchem line. East of Zevenaar, a station could be re-opened at Babberich (population 2000). That is dependent on the form of the HSL junction, which would leave the old line here. It is probably easier to construct a new alignment north of Babberich, at the same time correcting two curves.

The old line turns south-east here, to avoid the Montferland ridge. At the tip of the ridge, 5 km from Babberich, is Elten (population 4700). The station can be re-opened on its original site on the Lobither Strasse. It would also serve Lobith and Tolkamer in the Netherlands. The road through Elten (Bundesstrasse 8) can be rerouted past the station, avoiding the centre (dotted line). A new road alignment is also needed south of Elten, to replace a narrow and dangerous under-bridge.

Bahnhof Elten: base map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC3.0 licence


The sharp curve at Elten can not be improved: it is fixed by geography, at the point where the ridge meets the Rhine floodplain. Trains that stop at Elten would not be going too fast here anyway, 800 m from the station. The level crossing on the curve itself would be replaced. The proposed line to Kleve would diverge from the existing line, between the station and the curve.

The remaining 7 km to Emmerich are relatively straight. An additional station is possible at Hüthum, at the underpass, serving about 3000 people. In Emmerich itself, several crossings must be replaced, probably with an underpass. The line approaching the station, and especially the station itself, must be upgraded. (Like many German stations it is shabby, reflecting the low social status of rail travel there). Emmerich would be the interchange station between S-bahn services from Arnhem, and the RE 5, or its successor. The few remaining international overnight trains would disappear: it would not make sense to run them parallel to a HSL.

Upgrading line Arnhem – Emmerich

2 thoughts on “Upgrading line Arnhem – Emmerich

    1. infrastruct says:

      This service requires dual-system trains, which cost more than a standard train, and there is apparently no political will to improve this line. The RB35 is a slow regional service, and will not provide the promised high-quality link between Arnhem and the Ruhr.

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