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