Alternatives for the Nijmegen – Kleve line

For years there has been discussion about re-opening the 29-km Nijmegen – Kleve railway, which closed in 1991. No decision was ever taken, and there is local opposition to re-opening. The last semi-official proposals, for a low-frequency diesel service, have now been abandoned.

Line Nijmegen - Kleve on ridge

Reopening of the line as a double-track regional line was proposed here earlier. This post will look at alternatives. At present Kleve (population 49 000) is the terminus of the Linksniederrheinische Strecke. This rail line itself runs via Kempen to Krefeld, Neuss and Köln, but at present Kleve has only a regional service to Krefeld and Düsseldorf.

The simplest alternative is a regional tram line Kleve – Nijmegen, not connected to any existing railway. The tram would run on street and new alignment from Nijmegen to Kranenburg, and possibly on the old rail alignment into Kleve.

The proposed tram line Kleve - Nijmegen

The proposed rail line Kleve – Elten would connect the Linksniederrheinische Strecke, via a new Rhine tunnel, to the line into Arnhem. That has the advantage of improved connections, but the line into Arnhem station would be overloaded.


An alternative for that proposal is a new rail link Kleve – Emmerich, also via a new Rhine tunnel. However, that line is not an alternative for a Nijmegen – Kleve line. In fact it makes little sense without reopening of the line from Nijmegen, so that trains could run from Nijmegen to Emmerich via Kleve.

Bypassing Kleve

There are also alternatives which avoid Kleve entirely. The Linksniederrheinische Strecke could be connected to the Maas valley line into Nijmegen, by an east-west link south of the Reichswald. Although a new alignment is possible, the obvious option is restoration of the old Boxteler Bahn between Goch and the Maas valley line south of Cuijk.

The abandoned alignment east of Gennep…

Boxteler Bahn door de velden, vanuit Gennep, richting Goch en Wesel.

Partial restoration was proposed here earlier for a Nijmegen – Gennep line . It would carry an urban-regional service, comparable to an S-Bahn. There would be room for an additional regional service to Krefeld and beyond, but restoration east of Gennep is difficult. The alignment of the Boxteler Bahn has been built over, on the east side of Gennep itself, and in Goch, and it cuts through a protected landscape. The greatest disadvantage is that the route Krefeld – Nijmegen would be longer, with no other apparent benefits.

It would also be possible to connect the proposed high-speed rail line Nijmegen – Köln to the Linksniederrheinische Strecke.

HSL Nijmegen - Neuss - Köln

Again an east-west link south of the Reichswald is possible, on the Boxteler Bahn alignment, or alongside the Autobahn A57. Far simpler is to connect the lines at Nieukerk, where the HSL would cross the Linksniederrheinische Strecke. That would allow a fast inter-regional service from Nijmegen to Krefeld, and then for instance Duisburg. However, it would bypass not only Kleve, but most other towns on the Linksniederrheinische Strecke.

One other option is to abandon the connection with the Netherlands railway network. In that case the line can avoid Groesbeek: the Linksniederrheinische Strecke could be extended to a new station, on the eastern side of Nijmegen. The alignment would be similar to the proposed regional tram: on the old line as far as Kranenburg, then parallel to the main road, at the edge of the Rhine floodplain. Alternatively, it could run through the floodplain, diverging from the old line at Donsbrüggen (and bypassing Kranenburg).


However, a tram could climb the hill into central Nijmegen, and a train can not. Instead the passengers would have to walk uphill into the city centre. If they wanted to travel further by train, they would take a bus to the main station. Regardless of where exactly the new station was located, it would be inconvenient. That would outweigh a faster journey from Kleve: in that case the regional tram seems a better alternative.

Alternatives for the Nijmegen – Kleve line

New rail link Kleve – Emmerich

A new rail line Kleve – Emmerich is an alternative for the Kleve – Elten link, proposed here earlier. Both lines would use a new Rhine rail tunnel. Both are intended as part of a restructured rail network along the Lower Rhine. Both create a new rail link across the river, connecting west-bank and east-bank lines.


Specifically, a Kleve – Emmerich link would create a Nijmegen – Wesel route, an alternative for the proposed Nijmegen – Kleve – Xanten – Wesel line. A restored rail crossing at Wesel is nevertheless desirable.

A Kleve – Arnhem service is not possible via the Emmerich link. However, four rail lines converge on Arnhem from the east anyway. Adding a fifth would overload the section through Arnhem, which would have four tracks at best. Conversely, the Kleve – Emmerich link would not be logical without reopening of the line from Nijmegen, for regional rail services (i.e. not light-rail).

Unlike the line to Elten, the Kleve – Emmerich link would connect secondary regional centres. Kleve has 50 000 inhabitants, and is the administrative capital of Kreis Kleve, with 310 000 inhabitants. Emmerich am Rhein has a population of 30 000. Elten, on the other hand, has less than 5000 inhabitants.

Both lines would be about 11 km long, and in both cases a tunnel in the built-up area is required. The Kleve – Emmerich link is more complex, because there is no existing alignment to follow. The tunnel would require demolition near the station. It does not cross the Altstadt, but there are few historical buildings in Emmerich anyway: it was reduced to ruins in 1945.

Alignment from Kleve

The line alignment would start about 500 m east of Kleve station, before the junction with the disused line to Kalkar. This area is at present completely undeveloped. The line would curve north, crossing the ring road, into open agricultural land. It would pass south and then east of Haus Riswick, an agricultural research centre, still on open fields.

kleve-spoorterrein   riswick-qualburg

The alignment would then cross an old Rhine meander toward Warbeyen (Kellener Altrhein). Because this is a protected landscape, this section could be in tunnel.

At the small village of Warbeyen, the line would cut through the single street, near the Hövelscher Weg, in a cutting to minimise impact. This is a flood plain, and all tunnels and cuttings present a risk, but the design can accept occasional line closures. (The alternative is to put the line on viaduct, about 8 m above the farmland).


After passing Warbeyen, the line would drop into the main Rhine tunnel. The tunnel location is dependent on the alignment in Emmerich, and must avoid the foundation of the existing Rhine road bridge. The tunnel would probably cross the main Rhine dike near Jansenhof. At that point it would already be 20-30 m below the surface.

The road bridge at Emmerich: the tunnel would cross the Rhine behind the power line…

bridge emmerich

The alignment would turn toward Emmerich as it crossed the Rhine. On the north bank it could pass under the bridge deck, avoiding both the support towers and the approach road. If it crosses the approach road, it must also avoid the cable anchors, which are buried under the embankment. The alignment is further complicated by the chemical plant next to the bridge.

On the north side of the chemical plant (Wardstrasse entrance), the tunnel can pass under an office building. The alignment would then cross the Eltener Strasse, somewhere near the supermarket. The exact alignment from there to the station can not be given here. It would cross Heerenberger Strasse, Grollscher Weg and Van Gulpen Strasse


This last section would probably be built as a cut-and-cover tunnel, and in any case the tunnel is climbing to the surface here. Demolition is unavoidable: mainly austere post-war three-floor apartments. Average density is low, and there is enough disused open space to build replacement housing, probably 50 to 100 units.

heerenberger strasse

Drastic demolition for new infrastructure in residential areas has generally been abandoned in Europe. (Many inner-city roads were built in that way, in previous decades). Emmerich is exceptional because the town was destroyed in 1944/45, and the reconstruction was of low quality.

The tunnel portal might be located about 400 m east of the station, or alternatively in the station zone itself. The level crossing before the station would be replaced. Possibly the main line would be lowered here: the exact solution depends on the site of the tunnel portal.

At the station, the new line joins the main line from Arnhem to Oberhausen. There is more than enough room here, for extra tracks and platforms. At present this is a terminal station with an infrequent service – the hourly Rhein-Express to Koblenz. With the introduction of the ICE, it lost most of its international trains, and the station looks desolate.


The new tunnel would be pointless without restructured and intensified services. That include restoration of passenger services from Arnhem (already planned), and the reconstruction of the line Arnhem – Oberhausen as a high-speed line (Ausbaustrecke). The proposed Münster – Kleve – Nijmegen line would also use the tunnel. Even without that long route, the tunnel would certainly carry a Nijmegen – Kleve – Emmerich service.

New rail link Kleve – Emmerich

Rail tunnel in Kleve

The Nijmegen – Kleve rail line closed in 1991, leaving Kleve with an isolated terminal station. The restoration of the line via Groesbeek and Kranenburg was described earlier. A new rail tunnel in Kleve itself seems essential. Although the alignment is still available, it crosses a canal and main roads, and passes through a residential area. It also crosses the baroque park and gardens (Tiergarten), just west of the built-up area. The present surface alignment is not suitable for a frequent regional service, which would justify re-opening the line.

Click to enlarge…


A regional tram line Nijmegen – Kleve was also proposed here earlier. The proposals are not incompatible. The tram does not need the rail alignment – it can enter Kleve via the main road. Restoration of a rail link to Nijmegen would be essential for other routes, such as the proposed regional line Nijmegen – Kleve – Xanten – Wesel, or extending the proposed Münster – Kleve regional line to Nijmegen. A new western exit from Kleve station could be used by the proposed Kleve – Elten line.


At present Bahnhof Kleve is the terminus of the Linksniederrheinische Strecke, with a 30-minute Regional-Express service (Niers-Express). The station location is good – about 5 minutes walk from the main street through the historic centre.

West of the station is the Spoykanal, a short canal which links Kleve to the Rhine. It was opened in 1658, but stayed in use for centuries: the industrial zone of Kleve grew along its banks. The section near the station is not navigable, not even for a canoe. Nevertheless, the rail alignment crosses a main road (Bensdorpstrasse), and passes the buildings of the new Hochschule Rhein-Waal. The canal zone is being slowly redeveloped.

On the line of the old railway is a car park – the only place in Kleve where the tracks are gone. A restored surface line would be possible, but a tunnel is preferable for planning and environmental reasons.

The exact location of the former track: the red wagon is part of the draisine depot, left the Baumarkt, right the Hochschule buildings…


By shifting the station platforms eastward, there would be about 450 m available for a tunnel entrance, between the station and the canal bank. The main road would be raised by a few metres, to clear the descending rail line.

On the other side of the Spoykanal, the rail tracks are still there. They are used for recreational draisines, a tourist attraction, and the depot is next to the car park. On both sides there are industrial / commercial uses (Baumarkt), but no substantial buildings. The Hochschule Rhein-Waal buildings are clear of the line. There is therefore sufficient space for a double-track line, and for a tunnel construction site.


The tunnel can simply continue to the edge of Kleve, passing under the baroque gardens. There is also a double tunnel option: the line would surface after crossing the Flutstrasse, using the surface alignment across the Spyckstrasse. This is a residential street, but without through traffic: there is only a cycle path across the line. The ring road (Klever Ring) crosses the line on viaduct here, directly above the cycle path. A new cycle / pedestrian tunnel would avoid a level crossing.

viaduct Spyckstrasse

There are environmental problems with frequent train services here. On the other hand, a tunnel under the ring road would require reconstruction of the viaduct, which is also disruptive.

If the line is on surface at Spyckstrasse, there is just enough space to drop into a shallow tunnel under the Tiergarten park/gardens. A few houses north of the line would need a new access road. A continuous tunnel would avoid that problem. But with or without a surface section, the line must pass the gardens in tunnel.

Railway crosses ornamental lake in Baroque gardens: in the distance is Elten, across the Rhine. Image by Sebastian Veelken under CC 3.0 licence


What it looks like in the park…


A separate tunnel under the gardens would be about 1000-1200 m long. The continuous tunnel would be about 3000 m long, from Kleve Station to the edge of the gardens. Both variants would surface near the minor road Stiller Winkel.

The tunnel could be built slightly north side of the existing line: that would allow two curves to be improved. In theory the tunnel would allow construction of a second station in Kleve, at Spyckstrasse. However, the surrounding residential area is too small to justify it, and there is no housing further west.


The old railway north to the Rhine diverged on a sharp curve, between the station and the Spoykanal. The alignment is disappearing, as the canal zone is redeveloped. A new line to Elten would probably run west of Kleve. In that case, the junction would be outside the built-up area and the Tiergarten park, near the tunnel portal. Trains to Elten and Nijmegen would then share the tunnel through Kleve. Possible alignments between Kleve and the Rhine, are not considered further here.

Rail tunnel in Kleve

Rail line Nijmegen – Kleve

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…

Line Nijmegen - Kleve on ridge
Halte 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…

Maaslijn / lijn Kleve

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.

Click to enlarge…


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…

Rail alignment

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…

Railway ends at Kleve

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.

Rail line Nijmegen – Kleve

Update: rail line Nijmegen – Kleve

An official report on re-opening of the rail line between Nijmegen and Kleve is now available:

Eindrapport studie reactivering spoorlijn Nijmegen-Kleve

The study considered three variants from Nijmegen: tram to Kleve, a form of light rail to Weeze airport, or train to the airport. Extension of the existing train service from Krefeld into Nijmegen was not considered, nor was reopening of the old line Kleve – Xanten. The report rejects a new line to the airport at Weeze: too few passengers. Ultimately the choice is a tram or a ‘tram-train’ between Nijmegen and Kleve, but service would be minimal: every 30 minutes.

The proposals here go much further: a regional tram line Nijmegen – Kleve alongside the main road, and a separate rail line Nijmegen – Kleve – Xanten with a new tunnel under the Rhine into Wesel. The line from Krefeld to Kleve would be extended to Arnhem via another new tunnel or bridge.

Update: rail line Nijmegen – Kleve

Rail line Münster – Kleve – Nijmegen: part 2

This is the second part of a proposal, for a reopened / upgraded regional rail line Münster – Kleve – Nijmegen, connecting the regional towns. Read first the introduction and description of the alignment Münster – Borken. This part covers the section Borken – Bocholt – Kleve. Between Borken and the Rhine, the new line would run roughly parallel to Bundesstrasse 67, and has a similar regional function.

Click to enlarge…

New rail line Borken - Bocholt - Emmerich - Kleve

West of Borken, the new line would follow more closely the old Baumbergebahn, but new sections will be required. The situation at Werth illustrates the problems. Although other land is available, a row of new houses has been built, exactly on the old rail alignment. That was official policy: the municipality bought the railway land, and resold it for private use. A new line could be built around these houses, but it might be simpler to demolish them.

Click to enlarge: the old railway at Werth, visible as a horizontal line, through the centre of the image…

Alignment Baumbergebahn at Werth

There are similar problems at other towns and villages along the line.

Borken has a population 41 000. The station is the present terminus of line RE14, from Dorsten and Essen. It is close to the centre, but very basic, and would need upgrading. The line north to Winterswijk would be re-opened as part of the proposed regional line Apeldoorn – Borken – Essen.

The Baumbergebahn diverged from that line, about 500 m from the station. The alignment is now a cycle path, with new housing directly alongside it. The new line could be built on its northern side, and then in tunnel, but some demolition of the adjoining houses would be inevitable. The tunnel section through the housing is about 1200 m long.

Click to enlarge…

New rail line Münster - Kleve, section through Borken, NRW

From Borken to Rhede, the old line ran though open country. Although the alignment is barely visible, it is still probably the best route option. For 2 km, it runs directly alongside the old B67 road.

In Rhede, as in Borken, the alignment is still there, but adjoined by housing. An 1800 m cut-and-cover tunnel is the only option here. The new station would be at the old location, on the Bahnhofstrasse.

Click to enlarge…

Alignment Baumbergebahn Bocholt - Borken, through Rhede

The 3-km section between Rhede and Bocholt is not a problem. The Baumbergebahn joined the old line from Winterswijk, 1600 m from the station. The Borken – Bocholt section would 19 km long.

As in Borken, the station at Bocholt is now a terminus for the line south, the RB32 shuttle service to Wesel. The alignment into the station is available, but it runs through a built-up area. Again a tunnel would be needed, about 1200 m long.

Click to enlarge…

New rail line Münster - Kleve through Bocholt, with tunnel section

Bocholt has about 50 000 inhabitants, and is the second largest town on the proposed new line. The new line would offer interchange with the proposed regional line Winterswijk – Bocholt – Wesel, which would also use the new tunnel access.

South of Bocholt station, the Baumbergebahn is still in use as an industrial siding. Space is restricted by the adjoining industrial buildings, but double-tracking seems possible. (There is no housing on this section). After passing under the ring road, the line is again in open country.

About 3 km further, the line passes the north side of a large industrial zone at Mussum, Industriepark Bocholt. There is enough employment here to justify a station, even though there is no housing.

In Werth, as indicated above, the line would require a short tunnel (500 m), with the demolition of about 15 houses, or rerouting (yellow line on the map). The new line would now diverge, from the former alignment of the Baumbergebahn.

Click to enlarge…

New rail line Münster - Kleve between Bocholt and Isselburg

The old railway ran past the northern edge of Isselburg, turned south towards Empel, and then made a 90° turn into Empel-Rees station, on the main line Arnhem – Emmerich – Oberhausen. The present junction 4 of the Autobahn A3, is built exactly on the former rail alignment.

From Werth, the new line would cross the Issel (Oude IJssel), and pass south of Isselburg, with a new station on the Werther Strasse. It would then rejoin the old alignment, to pass under the motorway. (It could run west of the junction, shown in yellow on the map), South of the motorway, the line would turn west, to join the main line at Millingen station. This is 2 km closer to Emmerich, than Empel-Rees. (The line would cross the proposed HSL Arnhem – Oberhausen as it approached this junction).

Click to enlarge…

New rail line Münster - Kleve between Isselburg and Millingen station

From Millingen, it is 10 km to Emmerich, with one intermediate station at Praest. There are long-delayed official plans, to upgrade this main line, with a third track. That would still be insufficient for the service proposed here: four tracks are needed on the Arnhem – Emmerich section, which is also a main freight route. The Bocholt – Emmerich section would be about 28-30 km long.

At present Emmerich (population 30 000), is the terminus of services along the Rhein: the RE5 from Koblenz and the RB35 from Düsseldorf (peak hours only). The earlier proposal for a new rail line Kleve – Elten, assumed that Emmerich would also have an intensive regional service from Arnhem along the Rhine.

After Emmerich, trains from Münster would continue on the main line toward Zevenaar. East of Elten, a new curve would turn south, to link to the new Kleve – Elten line (with a new Rhine tunnel). This section would be about 17 km long,

Click to enlarge…


Trains from Münster would enter Kleve station from the north. Services could terminate at Kleve, but extension to a comparable city is preferable, even if it requires a reversal. Nijmegen is a university city, with 161 000 inhabitants, 25 km from Kleve. (Münster is a university city, with 275 000 inhabitants).

At present, Kleve is the terminus of RE10 from Düsseldorf, using the Linksniederrheinische Strecke (via Kempen). Trains from this line would continue to Arnhem: that is the main function of the proposed Kleve – Elten line.

To reach Nijmegen, trains from Münster would continue over a re-opened rail line to Nijmegen. There are three intermediate stations, at Kranenburg, Groesbeek, and Nijmegen-Heyendaal. This is also the route of the proposed regional line Nijmegen – Kleve – Xanten – Wesel: the two services would probably be compatible.

Closed rail line Nijmegen - Groesbeek - Kranenburg - Kleve

If trains from Münster terminate at Kleve, there is an alternative for onward travel: the proposed regional tram line Kleve – Nijmegen.

The entire line from Münster to Kleve would be approximately 130-135 km long, depending on the alignments used. The line to Nijmegen adds another 28 km. A journey between the two cities, of about 160-165 km, with new trains on a fully upgraded regional line, would take two hours.

Rail line Münster – Kleve – Nijmegen: part 2