Light metro in the Schiphol airport zone

This is an English language version of a 2009 proposal for a light metro network in the Haarlemmermeer region, around Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. It is intended to serve the region, rather than connect Amsterdam to the airport. To begin with, a short description of the airport location.

Schiphol Airport is located in a reclaimed lake: it is below sea level. The Haarlemmermeer, or Haarlem Lake was a large freshwater lake in the triangle between Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden. From the Middle Ages the lake grew constantly, as its banks were eroded in winter storms.

The lake around 1640…


By the 19th century all three cities were threatened by flooding from the lake. In 1848 it was enclosed by a ring dike and a ring canal, and pumped dry by 1852. At that time the cities were much smaller, and the reclaimed polder was used entirely for agriculture. There was one village, simply called Hoofddorp, ‘main village’. From the 1960’s on, airport development and suburban expansion of the adjoining cities and towns transformed the area. Hoofddorp itself now has 70 00 inhabitants.

Intensive use of the area, and the exceptional traffic flows, justify a metro here – even though it is not a city. The Municipality of Haarlemmermeer, which corresponds to the 1848 polder, has 145 000 inhabitants, and total employment is about 125 000.

Haarlemmermeer: map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC4.0 licence , click to download full-size image (32 MB)…


The region had its own transport network in the past: a local railway was built in the first decades of the 20th century (in Dutch: Haarlemmermeer-spoorlijnen). It had its own stations in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden, and served the main villages in the polder. It was gradually abandoned, and the last passenger trains ran in 1950. Some sections survived until the 1980’s, as freight lines.

Metro system and other infrastructure

The proposal is a light automated metro, operationally separate from other infrastructure. That would simplify construction, and allow the vehicles to match the traffic levels. There would be no through trains onto the Amsterdam metro, which at present does not serve the airport anyway. Most of the new metro would be in cut-and-cover tunnel, some sections could run on the surface, or on viaduct.

The region is served by three rail lines. The oldest is the Oude Lijn or Old Line, from Amsterdam to The Hague and Rotterdam. It was built in 1847, before the lake was reclaimed, and therefore has an L-shaped route via Haarlem. A new cut-off line was built in the 1970’s, to shorten the route to Leiden, and to serve Schiphol Airport. It is now four-track, as far as Hoofddorp. In 2009 the HSL Zuid was opened, the start of the high-speed route to Paris. It diverges from the Schiphol line at Hoofddorp, but has no intermediate stations between the airport and Rotterdam.

A number of new lines were proposed here earlier, and some affect the alignment of the proposed metro. The most significant is a new high-speed bypass of Schiphol Airport, for which there are several route options. A bypass line is officially planned to serve a future second terminal, but it has so many advantages that it should be built sooner. Avoiding the congested tunnel under the airport, it would have a new station on the airport periphery, which could be served by the light metro. The map below shows the route options: HSL in blue, existing Schiphol and Haarlem line in solid grey.

Bypass spoorlijn naar Leiden en HSL, langs Schiphol.

The alignment of the proposed bypass also allows an additional link from the airport to Haarlem, avoiding the existing interchange station at Sloterdijk. The present public transport link from the airport to Haarlem is an express busway, the Zuidtangent, which has an indirect route through Hoofddorp. The Haarlem branch can be combined with a new line, from the south of Amsterdam to Haarlem, along the A9 motorway.

New diagonal line…

Spoorlijn langs A9 van Amsterdam-Zuid naar Haarlem.

On the western side, the light metro depends on a proposed relocation of the Old Line between Haarlem and Leiden (in Dutch, Verschuiving van de spoorlijn door de Bollenstreek). Although the railway would not move far, relocation would allow it to serve the villages of the flower-growing region, Bollenstreek. The light metro would connect with the relocated line at a new station in Lisse, or possibly at Hillegom. (That would serve as an alternative for a planned rail link between Schiphol and Lisse).

The light metro could also connect to a new regional line from Utrecht (in Dutch Regionale metro Utrecht – Aalsmeer). A regional metro around Utrecht is under construction, Randstadspoor. It uses existing rail lines, with extra tracks in some places. The proposed Aalsmeer line would simply extend one of those lines, using the alignment of a former local railway.

The proposed lines would partly follow the original drainage canals of the Haarlemmermeer polder. Present infrastructure often follows the original drainage canals: the long axis is aligned south-west to north-east, at 41 degrees. Here the metro lines are designated ‘blue’ (long axis) and ‘red’ (transverse axis). Like the drainage canals, they cross in the middle of Hoofddorp, originally the most accessible point in the polder. The lines are described in four sections, around that interchange station.

Axial metro: blue line

The blue line south of Hoofddorp would start at a new Lisse station, west of the centre, on the relocated line. The station would allow interchange with regional trains from The Hague and Leiden. The metro line would turn east, with a station of the north side of Lisse, and then cross the ring canal in tunnel. All roads and railways into the polder must cross this canal: the land in the polder is also 5 m lower. The line would have a third station at Lisserbroek, which is the part of Lisse inside the polder.

The line would now turn about 90 degrees, to follow a drainage canal (Nieuwerkerker Tocht). This alignment is not original: it was used by the former local railway. At the time, it was at the edge of a small village, Nieuw-Vennep. It has now grown to 30 000 inhabitants, and the metro alignment passes through the new suburban developments: it is in use as a busway. Nieuw-Vennep would have three metro stations, one at the western shopping centre.

Lisse Vennep tracé

In the fields north of Nieuw-Vennep, the line would turn toward the southern corner of Hoofddorp, and then turn again to follow the main drainage canal (Hoofdvaart). The central station would have interchange with the red line, another with the Zuidtangent busway.

North of Hoofddorp, the blue line would turn toward Schiphol Airport, possibly serving a fourth station at the edge of the town. The interchange stations at Schiphol determine where exactly the line turns east. It must cross the A5 motorway, a runway, and the A4 motorway, so a bored tunnel may be needed. A new high-speed line through the airport would probably be on the eastern side of the runway, with the station opposite Junction 2 of the A4. If so, then the metro can cross the A4 and terminate alongside the existing airport railway station.

The long-planned second terminal would be built about 2 km further north, and it would have its own station on any bypass line. It is probably easier for the metro to access this station site, but it would then need a U-turn to reach the existing terminal. That is not a logical route, especially since the express busway runs directly from Hoofddorp to the terminal. It would make more sense to extend the light metro toward Amsterdam, or alternatively to extend the Amsterdam metro, to the second terminal station. However, the second terminal project is uncertain anyway: government strategy has shifted to expansion of regional airports.

Second terminal

The blue line, from Lisse to the existing terminal , would be about 18 km long. The average station spacing is about 1600 m, and that is long for a metro: the vehicles should take account of that. Nevertheless, inside the built-up areas, the station spacing is comparable with urban metros.

A second branch is possible west of Hoofddorp, along the southern edge of Hoofddorp to Bennebroek and Hillegom. Like the line in Lisse, it would start at a relocated station in Hillegom, then run parallel to the relocated railway, and then turn east to the Haarlemmermeer polder. It would have two stations in Hillegom, one in Bennebroek, and one in Zwaanshoek after crossing the ring canal into the polder.

Bennebroek Hillegom metro

The line would then follow the Bennebroekerweg, the old road to Bennebroek, which is now the southern edge of Hoofddorp. Two stations would serve new housing which is relatively far from the centre of Hoofddorp. The branch would then turn 90 degrees, to join the line coming from Lisse, on the main canal axis through Hoofddorp. The additional line would be about 10 km long.

Axial metro: red line

The red line west of Hoofddorp would start at Haarlem Station. It would first run eastwards, and then turn south through the Schalkwijk housing development. The section within Haarlem would have 5-6 stations, and function as an urban metro connecting to the main station.

A bored tunnel will be necessary here. Two possible alignments are shown, one under an industrial zone, and another under low-rise housing. In Schalkwijk, the line would follow the Prins Bernhardlaan and a park strip, to exit the built-up area. It must then cross a lake or gravel pit, and the polder ring canal – probably still in tunnel.

Haarlem metro: map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC4.0 licence

Metro Schalkwijk

In the polder, the line would turn to join the Kruisweg, the polder’s transverse axis. At the regional hospital (Spaarneziekenhuis) it would join the route of the express busway Zuidtangent.

The metro would follow the Kruisweg axis through Hoofddorp, with four stations. At the old centre of the village it would cross the blue line, with an interchange station. The new shopping centre is further south, but still within walking distance.

As Hoofddorp

East of Hoofddorp, the red line would still follow the original polder axis, now a main road (N201). It would pass north of the existing Hoofddorp Station, but would have interchange with the Zuidtangent busway, which crosses the main road on viaduct. It would pass south of Schiphol Airport, but would serve new development along the N201 (Schiphol-Rijk). More development is planned south of the N201.

The metro line would cross the ring canal again, and follow the N201 through Aalsmeer. There would be two stations on this section: in the centre, and at Ophelialaan. Construction under this road will not be easy, but most traffic has already shifted to a new ring road. At the edge of Aalsmeer, the line would turn to follow the Legmeerdijk, possibly on viaduct. The next station would be at the main entrance to the Aalsmeer flower auction, the largest employer in the region after the airport. This is a suitable terminal station for the red line, which wold be about 21 km long.

Aalsmeer metro: map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC4.0 licence


As with the blue line, the light metro could be extended toward Amsterdam, or the Amsterdam metro could be extended to make an end-to-end junction. (The Amsterdam light-rail Line 51 terminates about 4 km away, but that line is behind downgraded to a tram). The red line could also be extended to Uithoorn, but that is not considered further here.

An additional branch in the Haarlem area could start at Heemstede-Aerdenhout Station, on the Haarlem – Leiden line. From there it would follow the roads as much as possible (Lanckhorstlaan, Heemsteedse Dreef, Cruquiusweg). Nevertheless it will pass under suburban housing, and a bored tunnel in Heemstede is needed, with two for three stations. The branch would cross the ring canal into the polder at Cruquius, where there would be a station, and then join the main route, at the regional hospital Spaarneziekenhuis. The branch would be about 6 km long.

Heemstede branch: map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC4.0 licence

Heemstede metro

The total length of this metro network is about 55 km. It connects the surrounding suburbanised villages with the airport and with Hoofddorp, and that is a great improvement on the existing infrastructure. (At present only Nieuw-Vennep has a rail link to both Hoofddorp and the airport.) The metro network would replace most of the existing bus lines, and bus services in the region would be restructured as feeder lines. This is a region with specific transport demand, and a light metro is the best infrastructural option.

Light metro in the Schiphol airport zone

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