High-speed bypass of Roermond

This high-speed line (HSL) is an alternative for the longer HSL Eindhoven – Sittard, proposed here earlier. It is part of a high-speed corridor from Amsterdam to Aachen, and was originally described in Dutch. This post completes the English-language description of the corridor, which includes the existing Amsterdam – Utrecht line, a new HSL Utrecht – Eindhoven, and a new HSL Sittard – Aachen.

Both alternatives have the same function – to bypass the existing route through Roermond. The longer HSL to Sittard is the shortest option, almost a straight line between Geldrop and Sittard. However, it must pass protected zones in Flanders, and requires a tunnel under Weert. The shorter HSL proposed here follows existing infrastructure, the A2 motorway via Maasbracht. There is a disadvantage in following the motorway: the line might curve too much as it crosses the Maas, so that trains would slow down.

The original proposal suggested the line could be built in two phases, first from Weert to Echt (in black on the map), and then a northern bypass of Weert (in blue). However, the second phase may not be necessary, since there is space for a new curve on the western edge of Weert. In that case additional fast tracks would be needed, through Weert station.

Original version …

Hogesnelheidslijn Eindhoven - Sittard, vanaf Weert langs snelweg A2.

Both variants require four-tracking and upgrading of the existing line from Eindhoven to Weert. That is not described further here.

Alignment from Weert to Echt

The HSL would diverge from the existing line east of Weert, before it crosses the Wessem – Nederweert canal. The new line would cut through fields, to join the route of the A2 motorway. In fact, the line follows the 1929 canal, because the motorway was built alongside it. The terrain is level: there are no locks on the canal here.

The new line would fit between the motorway and the canal. For the first 6 km of the shared route, the motorway is right next to the canal, and here the motorway must be relocated. The HSL would take over the current northbound carriageway. There are no road crossings here.

After junction 41, the crossing with the old Napoleonic road (Napoleonsbaan), there is enough space for a railway between motorway and road. The next section of the alignment, which crosses the Maas, has three curves: at junction 41, at Wessem just before the river bridge, and at Maasbracht just after the bridge. There is enough space at junction 41 to accommodate a high-speed curve.

maasbracht-hsl-brug

As it crosses the Maas, however, the alignment must fit between the canal, gravel pits, and the two villages of Wessem and Maasbracht. Probably, the HSL must stay within 100 m of the motorway, and so the curves will not allow high speeds as the line pases Wessem and Maasbracht. That will be partly compensated because trains will slow anyway, to climb to the bridge, and then accelerate downhill away from it.

The alignment would allow a station at Maasbracht, only 400 m from the centre of the village. The line here would run directly alongside the motorway, as far as junction 44, and require almost no demolition. A station before the bridge is problematic. It cannot be built at Wessem, because the line climbs and turns. It might be possible at Panheel, further back from the river. To accommodate the station an additional curve would be needed, and in any case, the site (at a brick factory) is too far from the three villages.

If only one station is possible, then there seems little point. Since this line is intended for high-speed long-distance trains, the station would require a separate regional service, in addition to regional services on the existing line. The disadvantages outweigh any benefits for Maasbracht.

From the Maas to Sittard

After Maasbracht, the HSL must cross the A73 motorway, and also pass under three power lines. The alignment must also turn southward, toward the line to Sittard, the Maas Valley line. The upgrading of this line was proposed here earlier, as part of a high-speed corridor along the Maas valley (Venlo – Sittard, in Dutch). The upgrade requires a realignment of the existing curve north of Echt, and that would also allow a junction with a high-speed line from Weert. It keeps the new line clear of the recently built logistics centre, north of Echt.

echt-wessem

The new alignment via Maasbracht would end at this junction. From there to Sittard (13 km), the existing line must be upgraded, with four tracks. That should be relatively easy: it consists of two straight sections, with a curve between them. All trains would stop in Sittard, already a railway junction. South of Sittard, trains could continue on the HSL Sittard – Aachen, proposed here earlier. That HSL is not a precondition for any bypass of Roermond, but more capacity on the Sittard – Maastricht line probably is.

All Intercity services from Eindhoven south to Limburg, including future services to Aachen, would use the new cut-off line. The new section of line would be 19 km long. Including the upgraded existing lines, the new route between Weert and Echt would be 25 km long, as against 38 km for the historical route via Roermond. The reduction in journey time will be more significant: trains will be faster than current rolling stock, and the route avoids two stops in Weert and Roermond.

Through Weert or around Weert?

The original Dutch version of this post included a bypass of Weert, to avoid the sharp curve west of Weert station. The bypass would run close to the A2 motorway, but cannot follow it exactly, because it too has relatively sharp curves. It would probably require a tunnel, at the eastern edge of Weert.

If the curve was not so sharp, the new HSL could follow the existing alignment through Weert. Of course trains could also slow down at the curve, but that defeats the purpose of a high speed line. There is sufficient space in Weert for extra tracks. The line here was built as the ‘Iron Rhine’, a transit freight route from Belgium to Germany, which once carried heavy traffic. (The line Eindhoven – Weert was added later: the sharp connecting curve was not a problem at the time.)

It the curve can be improved, that would be easier than bypassing Weert entirely. That might be possible, if the new line diverges from the existing alignment outside Weert, and also at Weert Station.

Click to enlarge…

maarheze-weert

The new alignment could start about 4 km before Weert Station. It would first turn west, then back east, crossing the existing line twice. It would pass Weert Station on the site of the former goods yard, south of the present platform. It would rejoin the existing alignment about 1 km east of the station. A viaduct is the easiest option, but to reduce noise a tunnel might be preferable.

An alignment through Weert will make little difference to the total length of the route Eindhoven – Sittard. Journey time is saved because trains do not stop at Weert, and run at high speed through the built-up area. (Obviously there is no point in building such a high-speed route, if trains continue to stop at Weert).

The present Eindhoven – Sittard route, via Weert and Roermond, is 78 km long. The new bypass would cut that to 65 km. With no stops, a new middle section built for over 200 km/h, and the existing lines upgraded for 200 km/h, a journey time of 25 minutes is feasible. The present Intercity trains take 46 minutes, with two stops.

High-speed bypass of Roermond

Stadsregio-lijn Nijmegen – Gennep

De dubbele stadsregio Arnhem – Nijmegen is geschikt voor een eigen netwerk van regionale lijnen, vergelijkbaar in schaal met enkele S-Bahn systemen in Duitsland. Dat is ook al jaren in onderzoek, al lijkt het geen prioriteit te hebben. Hier wordt een nieuwe verbinding naar Gennep voorgesteld. Een lijn van het stadsregionale netwerk bedient dan Heyendaal (Radboud Universiteit campus), Mook (3000 inwoners), en Cuijk (17 000 inwoners), en krijgt Gennep (17 000 inwoners) als eindpunt.

Het voorstel is eenvoudig: een aftakking van de bestaande Maaslijn, ten zuiden van Cuijk. De aftakkende lijn volgt het tracé van de oude spoorlijn Boxtel – Wesel (Boxteler Bahn, Duits Lijntje), tot in Gennep. Zodoende wordt de oostkant van de Maas beter aangesloten. Het voorstel ligt voor de hand, en maakt dan ook geen aanspraak op originaliteit.

S-bahn Nijmegen - Cuijk - Gennep.

Het voorstel heeft drie delen. De bestaande lijn uit Nijmegen wordt verdubbeld en geëlektrificeerd: deze is nu grotendeels enkelsporig. Dat is een minimale vereiste voor de lijn naar Gennep. Hier werd eerder voorgesteld, de hele Maaslijn uit te bouwen tot hogesnelheidslijn (HSL), en dat impliceert viersporigheid over de hele lijn. De benodigde extra capaciteit voor treinen naar Gennep vormt in dat geval geen probleem.

Vervolgens is een nieuwe verbindingsboog nodig, richting Gennep. De oude (nu een fietspad) lijkt niet geschikt voor bijvoorbeeld de nieuwste Sprinters, die 140 km/h halen tussen stations. Tot slot moet het tracé van de Boxteler Bahn naar Gennep worden hersteld (bij voorkeur dubbelsporig), en geëlektrificeerd.

Klik om te vergroten…

Tracé Boxteler Bahn / Duits Lijntje tussen Cuijk en Gennep.

Dit gedeelte van het tracé is nog goed bewaard, en deels te bewandelen. Het loopt eerst langs een fabrieksterrein, en passeert daarna een nieuwe natuurgebied, een voormalige meander van de Maas. (Het tracé is verhoogd, juist vanwege overstroming gevaar). Er zijn weinige kruisende wegen.

Aan de westkant van de Maas had de oude lijn éen station, bij Oeffelt (2300 inwoners). Het stationsgebouw ligt er nog, maar een deel van het tracé daarnaast is inmiddels bebouwd. De sloop van enkele huizen lijkt onvermijdelijk, omdat ook een verschoven tracé niet tussen de huizen door kan. Het station blijft tamelijk ver van de dorpskern liggen.

Klik om te vergroten…

Tracé voormalige spoorlijn Boxtel - Wesel bij Oeffelt, Brabant.

De lijn moet nu de Maas kruisen, richting Gennep. De oude spoorbrug is omgebouwd tot verkeersbrug, maar is aan vervanging toe. Er moet in elk geval een nieuwe verkeersbrug worden aangelegd, aan de noordzijde van de bestaande brug: deze kan bij de bouw van de nieuwe brug gelijk vervangen worden. Niet de kruising van de Maas zelf, maar van de N271, is waarschijnlijk het grootse probleem hier. Deze weg is namelijk als snelweg uitgevoerd, en verdiept aangelegd. Komt de spoorlijn terug op zijn oude plaats, dan rijdt de trein dwars over de afritten. Om dat te voorkomen moet de spoorlijn blijven stijgen na de Maasbrug, om de N271 en de afritten op viaduct te kruisen.

Klik om te vergroten…

Heropening Station Gennep, als eindpunt S-Bahn vanuit Nijmegen en Cuijk

Gelukkig is er voldoende ruimte om weer te dalen, in de bebouwde kom van Gennep. Dat het tracé iets verhoogd ligt, is dan een voordeel: de kruisende Spoorstraat kan onder het spoor. Verder zijn er geen kruisende wegen, en is er voldoende ruimte naast de bestaande weg, dat iets naar het noorden wordt verschoven. Het station komt tegenover zijn oude plek, op het grasveld tegenover het huidige busstation – op de plek waar nu een locomotief staat, als herinnering aan de oude spoorlijn. De stationslocatie, aan de rand van het centrum, is niet te verbeteren.

De afstand Nijmegen – Gennep wordt 24 km. Met haltes in Heyendaal, Mook, Cuijk, Oeffelt, en eventueel Cuijk-Noord, zou de reis ongeveer 22-25 minuten duren. Afstand een reistijd zijn normaal voor een lijn van een stedelijk-regionale metro (S-Bahn).

Verlengen naar Goch?

Verlengen naar Goch lijkt weinig voordelen te bieden. In Gennep is het emplacement ten oosten van het centrum bebouwd, en daarna loopt het tracé door natuurgebied. Het grootse probleem is echter dat de Boxteler Bahn ontworpen werd voor doorgaand vervoer naar Noord-Duitsland. Het loopt dwars door de velden richting Wesel, en negeert de omliggende dorpen en de regionale structuur. (De huidige snelweg / Autobahn E31 heeft een vergelijkbare functie, en loopt hier evenwijdig aan de voormalige Boxteler Bahn).

Aan de Duitse kant van de grens, is het tracé te volgen als beboste strook in het landschap, meestal buiten de dorpen om. (Het gebied is ook niet dicht bevolkt). Bij Hassum zijn stationsterrein en gebouwen goed behouden, maar die liggen ook ruim buiten het dorp Hassum zelf. Alleen in Asperden ligt het tracé naast het dorp, maar daarop zijn onlangs woningen gebouwd. Ook in Goch is het tracé bij het station volgebouwd.

Klik om te vergroten…

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

Bij Station Goch was er vroeger overstap tussen de Boxteler Bahn en de Linksniederrheinische Strecke richting Kempen en Krefeld. Voor Goch en de overige stations op die lijn, geeft herstel van de lijn Kleve – Nijmegen een betere verbinding met Nijmegen. (Deze verbinding was nog tot 1991 in gebruik).

Hier zijn eerder twee nieuwe lijnen voorgesteld: een regionale tramlijn Nijmegen – Kleve, dat deels over de weg loopt, en een spoorlijn Nijmegen – Kleve – Xanten over ongebruikte spoortracés, met een nieuwe tunnel onder de Rijn naar Wesel. Hiermee zou de Linksniederrheinische Strecke goed aangesloten worden richting Nijmegen. Voor de langere afstand, is de voorgestelde HSL Nijmegen – Köln een veel beter alternatief, dan reizen over Cuijk en Gennep. (Het HSL-tracé kruist de voormalige Boxteler Bahn, aan de rand van Gennep).

Stadsregio-lijn Nijmegen – Gennep

Regional tram Roermond – Maaseik – Maastricht

The main rail line Amsterdam – Maastricht is on the east bank of the river Maas, as is the north-south motorway (A73 / A2). On the west bank (left bank), the main road is a Napoleonic military road (Netherlands N273, and the Belgian N78).

There is no rail line on the west bank, but there was an inter-local tram line along the main road, between Maastricht and Roermond. Belgium once had an extensive network of metre-gauge local railways (Chemins de Fer Vicinaux). The metre-gauge local railway 485 ran from Maastricht to Maaseik , continuing as line 486 to the Dutch border at Ittervoort. It followed the Napoleonic road almost entirely. In 1915, the Centrale Limburgsche Spoorweg company (CLS) extended it to Roermond, although not along the Napoleonic road.

There are no current plans, for a restored tram line along the Maas. The Spartacus plan for a regional tram network around Hasselt, does include a Hasselt – Maastricht tram line, using part of Belgian rail line 20. In Maastricht itself, it will not use the Maas railway bridge, which connects Line 20 to Maastricht Station. The Hasselt tram will run on street, via the Maasboulevard and a road bridge.

With these plans in Maastricht, it is logical for a regional tram along the Maas to share this alignment. However, both systems could theoretically be separated, with the Hasselt tram using the rail bridge, and the Maas valley tram on street. That would allow a new metre-gauge line, but unless the line is isolated that has no advantages. The Spartacus plan also includes lines to Maaseik and Eisden, which would connect to the N78 alignment, but at right angles.

The proposed Roermond – Maaseik – Maastricht line would be a regional tram, running on-street in the villages, with separate tracks where the road is wide enough. It would generally have one stop in each village – less than the existing bus services along these roads. The line is described here north to south, starting at Roermond.

Roermond to Maaseik

The line would start at Roermond station, probably at the existing bus station, and follow the inner ring road around the city centre (Godsweerdersingel, Wilhelminasingel). There would a stop before the river, between the main square and the new Kazerneplein development. The line would then cross the river Maas on a new tram bridge, on the north side of the road bridge. Possibly there would be a stop on the other side, at the recreational lakes (Maasplassen).

Click to enlarge: tram Roermond – Beegden…

Tram Roermond - Beegden, mogelijk via Horn.

The line would follow the N280 toward Horn. This road now bypasses the village of Horn, and restoring the old tram alignment would require a new bridge over the Maas lateral canal. The new tram could run alongside the N280, turn north to the old route in Horn, and then turn south along the road to Beegden. Avoiding Horn entirely would save about 600 m: local trams from Roermond could serve Horn via a short branch.

The tram would use the old road (the Heerbaan, older than the Napoleonic military road), through the villages of Beegden, Heel, and Panheel. Heel might have two stops, one at the old tram station, now ‘Café De Tram’. The line would continue toward Thorn, a historic town – one of the few tourist destinations on the west bank of the Maas. The narrow streets are not suitable for a modern tram: the line could run through the fields, along its northern edge.

Thorn: CC 3.0 licence, by Les Meloures at lb.wikipedia.

The line would first cross the Wessem – Nederweert Canal alongside the existing bridge at Panheel Lock, and use a new bridge over the A2 motorway. At Ittervoort, the line would join the Napoleonic road, the N273: here too the old station survives, as Café De Tramhalte. Alternatively, the line could avoid Thorn, following the canal from Panheel, and joining the the N273 north of Ittervoort. (In that case, there could be a branch to Thorn, with local services from Roermond).

Click to enlarge: tram alignments near Thorn…

Possible tram alignments near Thorn and Ittervoort.

1500 m from Ittervoort, the road crosses the border. This has consequences for the tram line, because of Flemish planning policies: the road is lined with ribbon development (lintbebouwing). The old village cores are usually away from the road, but some villages have secondary clusters of shops at the crossroads. The road itself is wide, but this low-density urban strip is difficult to serve by public transport. To avoid the driveways, the tram would run in the centre of the road.

At the first village on the Belgian side, Kessenich, the old station is intact: the new tram stop in Kessenich would be further south. Geistingen and Ophoven would also have one stop each.

In Maaseik, about 24 km from Roermond, the tram would use the Burgemeester Phillipslaan, to bypass the narrow streets of the centre. There would be a stop north of the centre (Venlosesteenweg), and at the redeveloped square (Bospoort) on its western side. (There would be no interchange with the proposed high-speed line Eindhoven – Sittard).

Maas left bank regional tram line, in Maaseik.

Maaseik to Lanaken

South of Maaseik, the N78 is very wide, especially the section to the motorway junction at Maasmechelen. The volume of traffic would requires full separation, with tram stops on viaducts at major crossroads. The tram would serve Elen, Rotem, Dilsen, Lanklaar, and possibly Rachels.

Eisden has a clear centre: the tram would stop near the main square (just off the N78). South of Eisden, the road bends to cross the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal. The bridge is too narrow for a tram, and in any case a parallel tunnel is a better option, since the terrain slopes upward.

After this bend, at the northern edge of Mechelen, the tram would cross the proposed regional rail line Hasselt – Genk – Sittard. This is the only rail interchange on the tram line: the station would be on viaduct above the N78, about 300 m from the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal.

Click to enlarge: new rail line from Eisden across the Maas…

Rail line Eisden - Urmond with new Maas bridge or tunnel.

In Mechelen, the N78 itself forms the main street: this is the centre of the municipality Maasmechelen, which includes Eisden. The tram would stop at the town hall and shops, close to the Helix campus (regional school cluster). The tram line would then pass the junction with the E314 motorway: a separate alignment is necessary here.

The tram would stop at the industrial zone south of the motorway, at Rekem, and at Neerharen. The original line of the Napoleonic road is then cut by the Briegden – Neerharen link canal, and the present N78 turns south-west along this canal, just outside Lanaken. The tram to Maastricht would not serve Lanaken, but it could have a 2-km branch into the centre, with local service from Maasmechelen.

Into Maastricht

The tram line would cross the Briegden – Neerharen canal, on a new tram bridge, and join the N766, the continuation of the Napoleonic road. It would have one stop in Smeermaas, just before the Netherlands border.

Click to enlarge: tram bypassing Lanaken toward Maastricht…

Tram Maasmechelen - Maastricht bypassing Lanaken, with branch.

South of Smeermaas, the original metre-gauge line ran due south into Maastricht, along the Brusselseweg. The new tram would join the tramline from Hasselt (Line 20) south of Smeermaas, at a rail overbridge on the Brusselseweg.

Approaching Maastricht, the planned line crosses the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal, and will continue as an urban tram line, via the Wilhelmina Bridge toward the station. (The proposed high-speed line Maastricht – Hasselt – Antwerpen would have its own route in tunnel under Maas).

The tram would end at the existing bus station, in front of Maastricht Station. The Maaseik – Maastricht section would be 31 km long, and the whole line about 55 km. With about 26 stops (2 km apart on average), a journey time of 90 minutes should be possible.

Regional tram Roermond – Maaseik – Maastricht