New high-speed alignments between Berlin and Hamburg

These improvements to the high-speed rail line Berlin – Hamburg are part of a series of proposals, for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction, on new rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The 284-km Berlin-Hamburger Bahn runs north-west from Berlin to Hamburg. The shortest route would be along the bank of the river Elbe, but the line runs further north. It only approaches the river at Wittenberge and Boizenburg.

Berlin-Hamburger Bahn: map by NordNordWest under CC 3.0 licence

After German reunification, a complete new high-speed line (Neubaustrecke / Schnellfahrstrecke) was considered. So was a cut-off along the Elbe, between Boizenburg and Wittenberge, shortening the route by 6%. These projects were displaced by a proposed maglev line, which was then abandoned because of the cost. In the end, the existing alignment was upgraded for high speed (Ausbaustrecke).

That has the advantage, that the route to Schwerin also benefits. With the high-speed line Schwerin – Lübeck, proposed here earlier, the Schwerin branch would also be the main route Berlin – Lübeck.

The present double-track line carries high-speed trains at 230 km/h, regional trains, and freight trains. That works, because present service frequencies in Germany are low. New construction would shorten the route, avoid slower sections, and allow a more intensive service. (The planned London – Birmingham high speed line will carry trains every 3-5 minutes). Any increase in capacity must apply to the entire route: new sections of line imply extra tracks on the remaining sections.

Route options

A new line along the Elbe, from Wittenberge to Boizenburg, is still technically feasible. However, the Elbe banks are largely protected landscape (Naturpark), and now part of a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve. Part of the line could follow the disused Wittenberge – Lüneburg line, but beyond Dömitz, it would be on entirely new alignment. It would almost certainly conflict with the protected status of the zone, so that option is not considered further here.

The existing alignment could be shortened by a cutoff line between Neustadt (Dosse) and Karstädt, running north of Perleberg. This would be used by high-speed trains to both Hamburg and Schwerin.

Another new section could start near Hagenow, and follow the Autobahn A24 to the edge of Hamburg. This is primarily for Berlin – Hamburg traffic, but would also provide a faster line from Hamburg to Schwerin. Beyond Schwerin, it would connect to the proposed HSL to Rostock, creating a through Hamburg – Rostock route. The A24 alignment is only slightly shorter, but it would segregate high-speed traffic, and can be built for 300 km/h.

Between these two new sections the line through Ludwigslust would be four-tracked and upgraded for higher speed. Alternatively, a new line could be built alongside it, with a new tunnel through Ludwigslust station, or a new approach curve west of the station.

Alignments are not described in detail here. The new lines are intended for long-distance passenger traffic only. Regional and inter-regional trains would continue to serve interchange stations such as Wittenberge, Ludwigslust, and Hagenow-Land.

Upgrading, from Berlin

The lines to Hanover and Berlin split at Spandau, which is inside the built-up area of Berlin. The line between Spandau en Nauen, 35 km from central Berlin, would certainly need four tracks, since there are relatively intensive regional services. Alternatively, the stations could be served by a parallel S-Bahn line – which also requires two extra tracks. (At present, the S-Bahn ends at Spandau, but there are plans to extend it to Falkensee).

Beyond Nauen, the line carries long-distance trains, and one all-stations service: Regional-Express line RE2 to Wismar. Nevertheless, new regional services, and segregation of traffic, probably require four tracks as far as Neustadt (Dosse), 75 km from Berlin.

The new cutoff line would start north of Neustadt station. It would be about 62-65 km long: built across agricultural land, with no intermediate stations, and carrying only high-speed trains.

Long bypass of Wittenberge on the line Berlin - Hamburg.

At Neustadt itself, space is a problem: it is the junction for the proposed regional rail line Schwerin – Parchim – Neustadt, and other restored regional lines. However, the alignment itself is perfect, so the logical solution is extra high-speed tracks through the station, in tunnel or on viaduct. At the other end, the new cutoff line would rejoin the existing line, 5 km north of Karstädt.

The ‘A24 Neubaustrecke’ would leave the existing alignment east of Hagenow Land station, and pass north of Hagenow. It might follow part of the old line to Ratzeburg, but that is not absolutely necessary. Near exit 10 it would join the A24 Autobahn, and follow it for about 50 km. The new section would be about 72-75 km long.

Between exits 5 and 6, the new line would diverge from the Autobahn, to join the existing line between Aumühle and Wohltorf. These are the outer suburbs of Hamburg: Aumühle is the terminus of S-Bahn line S21. The relatively dispersed suburban housing makes it difficult to cut new alignments through the area, and the link might be in tunnel.

HSL along the A24 Autobahn between Berlin and Hamburg.

The 24-km section, from the new junction to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, would also need extra capacity. Unlike the Berlin – Nauen line, this section carries only one regional service: Regionalbahn line R20. There is one intermediate station: Bergedorf, also served by a few Intercity trains. (The others are served by the parallel S-Bahn). More frequent regional services would need extra tracks, which is difficult with the curving and restricted alignment into Bergedorf.

The total length of new alignments between Berlin and Hamburg would be about 135-140 km – almost half the existing route. With a new parallel line through Ludwigslust, there would be a 175-km section designed for 300 km/h. It should then be possible to reduce Berlin – Hamburg journey time to 80 minutes, and Berlin – Schwerin time to under 70 minutes.

New high-speed alignments between Berlin and Hamburg

High-speed rail line Lübeck – Rostock

This Lübeck – Wismar – Rostock high-speed rail line (HSL) is part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction: New rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The new HSL would link three historic cites along the Baltic coast, Lübeck (population 210 000), Wismar (population 45 000), and Rostock (population 203 000).

HSL (ABS/NBS) Lübeck - Wismar - Rostock

There is no through rail line at present, and there never was. The line east from Lübeck does not go to Wismar: instead it turns inland to Bad Kleinen, a junction station. There it connects with the Schwerin – Rostock line, and the line to Wismar, both electrified.

The line Lübeck – Bad Kleinen, map by NordNordWest, under CC 3.0 licence..

From Wismar, there is also a single-track diesel line to Rostock. A new HSL, parallel to the coast, would avoid the detour via Bad Kleinen. The main problem is the station location at Wismar, where there is no clear east-west alignment available. The HSL could form part of a longer high-speed corridor to Stralsund, but only the Lübeck – Rostock section is considered here. (The line can also be combined with a high-speed route Lübeck – Schwerin, using a new western bypass of Bad Kleinen).

From Lübeck Hauptbahnhof, the existing line to Grevesmühlen would be upgraded as Ausbaustrecke. (East of both Lüdersdorf and Schönberg stations, a new alignment would be needed). East of Grevesmühlen, the existing line turns toward Bad Kleinen: the HSL would run straight to Wismar on a new alignment. The HSL described here would not follow the the A20 Autobahn, which has a sinuous alignment. (An alternative along the A20 south of Wismar, is described separately).

HSL Lübeck - Wismar, alignment east of Grevesmühlen.

At Wismar, the line could run south of the town, with a new station where it crosses the line from Schwerin. A better option is a line in tunnel, with a station close to the centre. There are several possible alignments: the one shown below passes the south-eastern edge of the historic centre. It would be partly in tunnel, but would run alongside the existing road viaduct over the rail line (Dr.-Leber-Strasse / Rostocker Strasse). The existing station would be relocated southwards, creating a single new station, at the crossing with the old line. Trains from Schwerin could use an additional viaduct with platforms, to run through to Rostock. The HSL would rejoin the existing alignment near Hornstorf.

HSL Lübeck - Rostock with new alignment in tunnel through Wismar.

East of Wismar, the line would first follow the existing line to Rostock, and then diverge onto a new alignment. (The A20 is too far south in this case). The HSL would rejoin the existing line, on the outskirts of Rostock. The section into Rostock Hauptbahnhof is curved, and would need local realignment. The station itself is adequate for new traffic: it is close to the historic city centre, although Rostock has expanded northwards toward Warnemünde.

HSL Lübeck - Rostock, line into Rostock.

Rostock has a small S-Bahn network, and would be the terminus of a proposed HSL route from Berlin. East of Rostock, the HSL can be extended to Stralsund, following the existing line, which is relatively direct.

The new line from Lübeck to Wismar would be 60 km long, and the new Wismar – Rostock section about 50 km. With one stop, journey time for the 110 km Lübeck – Rostock line, should be just under 40 minutes.

High-speed rail line Lübeck – Rostock

High-speed rail line Berlin – Rostock

This Berlin – Rostock high-speed rail line (HSL) is part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction: New rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The existing line runs via Neustrelitz: the proposed alignment is intended to reroute the line through Neubrandenburg, strengthening its function as a regional centre. The Rostock – Neubrandenburg section can also serve as part of a high-speed route to Szczecin.

High-speed rail line Berlin - Neubrandenburg - Rostock, ABS / NBS.

The existing line consists of the Berliner Nordbahn (1877), as far as Neustrelitz, and the Lloydbahn (1886) from there to Rostock. The line is electrified, and almost entirely double-track.

The upgrading to a high-speed route starts with restoration of the abandoned section of the Nordbahn in Berlin itself, from Bornholmer Strasse to Hohen Neuendorf. Although reopening has been planned since reunification, nothing has been done: only the parallel S-Bahn tracks are in use. Other trains use the outer rail ring (Berliner Aussenring, BAR). The 10 km from Hohen Neuendorf to Oranienburg would be upgraded, with at least one extra track to increase capacity.

With the restored Nordbahn alignment, Oranienburg would be 31 km from Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The curved alignment through Oranienburg limits speeds, but preferably all trains would stop there anyway, since it is a major interchange for the northern edge of Berlin. (More later on new and restored lines into Oranienburg).

North of Oranienburg, the alignment consists of straight sections linked by curves, These curves are the main obstacle to upgrading for high speed: the line passes mainly through forest, with no significant relief. Several sections must be re-aligned, moving the line east or west by 100-500 m.

Markus Gröbe proposed a new direct line between Neustrelitz and Neubrandenburg, as part of a HSL toward Rostock and Stralsund. The proposal here assumes that high-speed trains to Rostock do not stop in Neustrelitz, and a bypass is more logical. That can be combined with a more direct bypass of Burg Stargard.

Click to enlarge: Neustrelitz bypass…

Bypass of Neustrelitz on HSL Berlin - Neubrandenburg - Rostock.

The Neustrelitz bypass would turn from the existing line, about 5-6 km south of Neustrelitz station. It would briefly run parallel to the B96, and then climb to higher ground, rejoining the line near Thurow. The bypass would be purely for high speed trains, so the gradients are not a problem.

The HSL would then run next to the existing line, and diverge again onto a second bypass, near Rollenhagen. The HSL would cross the Wanzkaer See on two bridges, and continue north-east. It would pass through agricultural land west of Burg Stargard, and rejoin the existing line at the edge of Neubrandenburg, near Fünfeichen. It would drop about 20 m over a low escarpment there. The alignment in Neubrandenburg might need improvement, but the sharpest curve is near the station, where trains slow anyway.

HSL Berlin - Neubrandenburg with new lines around Neustrelitz.

All trains would stop at Neubrandenburg (population 65 000). It would be 130 km from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, via the new line. Neubrandenburg station would be an interchange with other new and upgraded lines: more on those later.

From Neubrandenburg, a single-track line runs via Malchin to Güstrow (Bützow–Szczecin line, 1864). From its crossing with the Lloydbahn at Lalendorf, it is electrified. This route is not suitable for upgrading as Ausbaustrecke Neubrandenburg – Rostock. The preferable option is a HSL alongside this line, with new alignments west of Neubrandenburg and west of Malchin.

New high-speed rail line Neubrandenburg - Rostock, NBS to Laage.

The first new section would leave the existing line at the edge of Neubrandenburg, climbing about 25 m to higher ground. It would extend about 16-18 km to Grischow, where it would rejoin the existing alignment. The HSL would closely follow the existing line to Malchin.

East of Malchin a completely new 40-km alignment would run north-west, north of the Teterower See. Most of this section is relatively level, but the line must first cross the ridge between Malchin and Teterow the Mecklenburgische Schweiz.

The lake depression and the ridge, near Malchin, by Ch. Pagenkopf under CC 3.0 licence.

The existing line crosses the ridge without difficulty. Although it is too curved for high speeds, the HSL can follow it approximately, diverging west of Remplin. At Kronskamp, north of Laage station, the new alignment would rejoin the main line (Lloydbahn).

From there, the HSL could again run next to the main line – or that line could be 4-tracked and upgraded, over the 20 km to Rostock Hauptbahnhof. This station is near the southern edge of city, which extends north along the estuary to the Baltic shore. At Rostock (population 200 000), the line would connect with S-Bahn and regional services, and with a new east-west high-speed route.

The HSL from Neubrandenburg would be about 100-105 km long, giving a total high-speed route from Berlin to Rostock of about 230-235 km. That is longer than the existing route via the Lloydbahn – about 215 km, if it used the restored Nordbahn line in Berlin itself. However, the HSL is not solely intended for Berlin – Rostock traffic, and its tracks would be used by other high-speed routes through Neubrandenburg.

High-speed rail line Berlin – Rostock

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 3

This is the third part of a proposal for a high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke, Neubaustrecke) from Enschede to Hannover, part of an Amsterdam – Berlin line. The line takes its name from the Mittellandkanal which it parallels.

Read the introduction first. This part covers the line through Minden and on to Hannover. The previous post ended with the alignment along the Mittellandkanal, between Alswede and Isenstedt (20 km from Minden). There are two main options east from there.

The HSL could leave the canal at Isenstedt, and bypass Minden, about 6 km north of the city centre. This alignment (shown in green) would rejoin the main line to Hannover at Stadthagen. However, if the HSL avoids Minden anyway, then the most direct alignment is straight from Kalkriese to Hannover (shown in yellow). All alignments north of Minden, would cut through the Schaumburger Wald, to reach the existing Minden – Hannover line.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Enschede - Hannover through Minden, alignment options

Minden (population 82 000) is the largest urban centre between Bielefeld and Hannover. Routing the HSL near the city would allow trains from the east to access the station, and the Minden – Hannover section can be used by Dortmund – Bielefeld – Hannover high-speed trains. (The Dortmund – Minden line is partially upgraded for 200 km/h).

The only available surface alignment through Minden (shown in white) is along the southern bypass road (B65), and the former rail siding to Häverstädt. The HSL would follow the Mittellandkanal to Hille, cross the canal, and turn south-east. It would join the old rail alignment at Dützen, on the edge of the built-up area. The old line is free of buildings, presumably for a planned extension of the bypass. The HSL would cross the Weser alongside the road, and then turn east, south of the gravel pits. Very high speed is probably not possible, on the route through Minden.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Enschede - Hannover via Minden

The HSL would cross the existing Minden – Hannover line, bypass Bückeburg, and join the line further east.

The new line north of Bückeburg can also link to a new tunnel, under the Wesergebirge ridge (shown in green). The existing main line Dortmund – Minden – Hannover passes through a gorge cut by the Weser, at Porta Westfalica. The new tunnel would be used by high-speed trains between Hannover and Bielefeld, by-passing Minden: more on this later.

An alignment through Minden allows link curves into the station, from east and west (shown in red). The western curve would diverge from the HSL before it crosses the Weser, and requires an additional bridge. The eastern curve is located where the HSL crosses the existing line to Hannover.

About 4 km east of Bückeburg station, the HSL would join the existing alignment. Upgrading of this line as Ausbaustrecke was officially planned, but has been suspended. The HSL would require a 4-track line through Stadthagen, upgraded for high speed. This should not be a problem: the line is almost straight.

HSL Enschede - Hannover from Minden to Hannover (NBS, ABS)

A new cut-off line from Haste to Seelze (avoiding Wunstorf) would complete the high-speed route. From there it is 11 km to Hannover Hauptbahnhof.

The entire alignment Enschede – Hannover via Minden would be about 215-220 km long. With a line speed of 300 km/h (except through Minden), that should allow a journey time of around one hour.

The line speed on the connecting HSL Hannover – Berlin is nominally 250 km, but that only applies to its middle section. (Trains take 1h 40min, an average speed of only 155 km/h). New parallel tracks on that line, could bring total Amsterdam – Berlin journey time down to 3 h 20 mins, over a total route length of 615-625 km.

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 3

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 2

This is the second part of a proposal for a high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke, Neubaustrecke) from Enschede to Hannover, part of an Amsterdam – Berlin line. The line follows the Mittellandkanal at the edge of the North German Plain, and takes its name from the canal.

Read the introduction first. The alignment is over 200 km long, and is not described in great detail.

The line would start at a fully reconstructed station in Enschede, the de facto capital of Twente. From there, trains would use a four-tracked line toward Gronau and Münster. Between Gronau and Ochtrup, the HSL to Münster would diverge onto its own alignment. The Mittelland-HSL would follow the of the proposed new link from Ochtrup to Rheine. That line is also intended for regional trains. It would be disruptive to build a 4-track line (with a 300 km/h alignment) through Ochtrup, so the HSL would probably run north of the town. It could run alongside the regional line, for about 10 km.

As it passes the airbase / barracks (Theodor-Blank-Kaserne), the regional line would turn south-east, to join the Ems valley line into Rheine station. The HSL would continue north-east, turning east as it crosses the Ems river, north of Rheine. The closer to Rheine, the shorter the route, However the line must avoid historic buildings at Bentlage, and nature reserves along the river. It could pass south of junction 7 on the A30, cutting through Güterverkehrszentrum Nord-West and crossing the Dortmund-Ems Kanal at Altenrheiner, with a tunnel under the river. A longer but simpler alignment would run north of the Theodor-Blank-Kaserne, north of junction 7, cutting through Industriegebiet Holsterfeld.

Click to enlarge…

High-speed line Enschede - Hannover by-passing Rheine

In both cases, the HSL would pass south of Dreierwalde, and then run east to the Mittelland Kanal near Obersteinbeck. The eastbound link line from Rheine would join the HSL there. This link could also be used by local trains, onto the Tecklenburger Nordbahn (currently freight-only). The HSL might follow the alignment of the Tecklenburger Nordbahn to Recke, or it might join the canal between Obersteinbeck and Recke.

Click to enlarge…

High-speed line Enschede - Hannover, from Rheine to Recke

The line would now follow the canal eastwards, although not directly on the canal bank, which was not designed to carry a rail line. Along the canal, there are industrial sites with quaysides, and occasionally housing. The HSL would run about 20-50 m from the canal, and in places diverge from it.

At Bramsche, the line would run south of the Mittellandkanal. The canal alignment is curved, wit housing and industry alongside it. The HSL would cross the canal again, to pass the Kalkrieser Berg on the north bank (avoiding the archaeological zone).

Click to enlarge…

High-speed line Enschede - Hannover south of Bramsche

Kalkriese is the most northern point on this HSL. The rest of the alignment is determined by the section near Minden. One possibility is that the line simply runs east from Kalkriese to Hannover (shown in yellow below). The versions described here assume a route through Minden, or just north of it.

The line could turn away from the Mittellandkanal at Kalkriese, pass north of Bohmte, and rejoin it on the straight section Wimmer – Alswede. This variant could have a connection from the Bremen line for Osnabrück – Hannover trains, but its utility is reduced by the longer route through Bohmte.

Click to enlarge…

High-speed line Enschede - Hannover, alignments near Bohmte

The HSL could also follow the Mittellandkanal along the foot of the hills (Wiehengebirge), and pass south of Bohmte. That would allow a more effective connection from Osnabrück: via the existing line through Ostercappeln, or via a new tunnel under the ridge. The HSL would run about 2 km north of the canal at Bad Essen, avoiding a curved section with canal-side housing. It would rejoin the Mittellandkanal at Wimmer, the beginning of the straight section to Alswede.

From Alswede to Isenstedt, the line would follow the canal again. At Isenstedt, 20 km from Minden, the possible alignments diverge. These alignments (passing Minden) are covered in the third part of the description.

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 2

High-speed rail line Venlo – Neuss

The earlier proposed high-speed rail line Nijmegen – Köln follows a direct route from Nijmegen to Neuss. It could not, however, be used by trains from the route Rotterdam – Eindhoven – Venlo. The proposal here is a second high-speed line (HSL), connecting to the new Nijmegen – Köln line.

It would allow trains from Venlo to access the HSL into Neuss. It would also create a high-speed route from Venlo, to Krefeld and Duisburg: there is no direct line at present. The proposal assumes upgrading of the existing Intercity route to Venlo (line-speed and capacity). It is also complementary to a high-speed rail line from Antwerpen to Eindhoven: trains could continue via Venlo, to Duisburg, Essen and Dortmund.

Click to enlarge: HSL from Venlo (blue dotted line), connects to HSL from Nijmegen (red)…

The proposed new line runs east-southeast from Venlo, crossing the Viersen – Krefeld line near Anrath: it would have a junction to that line. South of Krefeld, near Willich, it would join the Nijmegen – Köln HSL. The Venlo – Willich section would be 31 km long, the shared section into Neuss 12 km long. From Venlo to Neuss, station-to-station, the distance is 44 km, which should be covered in 17 to 20 minutes.

The new line would start at Venlo, population 91 000, the regional centre of northern Limburg. Venlo Station once had international through trains, today only an hourly Regional-Express to Düsseldorf and Hamm. It is still an important transfer station for freight, but noise from the trains has created pressure for closure of the line. (The Iron Rhine is a possible alternative).

Venlo lies on the river Maas. The land west of the river is flat, on the eastern side is an escarpment (part of the Maas terraces). The plateau edge on the eastern side of Venlo is about 25-30 m high. 15 km east of Venlo, the new line would also cross a low ridge, the Süchtelner Höhen. This ridge is 30-50 m above the land on each side. Apart from this, the proposed alignment is almost level, typically 30 m to 40 m above sea level.

Click to enlarge…


The existing line to Viersen (1866), climbs from Venlo on a curved section. If this alignment was used for the new line, it would be widened to 4-track (5-track if it was still a freight corridor). The new HSL might use a more direct tunnel. It could run under the Kaldenkerkerweg. The rise is concentrated in a 500-m section, and the first section of line would be on the surface, requiring some demolition. The tunnel could also run north of the Kaldenkerkerweg (red dashed line).

Click to enlarge: the options for the climb out of Venlo…

HSL and rail routes out of Venlo

At Schwanenhaus, the tunnel variants would briefly rejoin the existing alignment. The new line would then diverge from the existing alignment, and cross the Autobahn A61. It would run beside it to Junction 2, by-passing Kaldenkirchen.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Venlo - Neuss by-passing Kaldenkirchen

The HSL would then turn away from the Autobahn, toward the alignment of the former Kempen – Venlo railway. It would run beside (or parallel to) this alignment, across the river Nette. This is a protected zone, but already crossed by many roads. The old line continued to Lobberich. The former station zone has been redeveloped at low density, so it would be available, but a better option is to shift the new alignment slightly to the north (dashed lines).

Click to enlarge…

HSL Venlo - Neuss crossing the Nette

After Lobberich, the old line turned toward Grefrath: the new HSL would continue almost in a straight line, toward Anrath. First, it must cross the ridge of the Süchtelner Höhen. The ridge is not very high, but locally prominent because the landscape is otherwise flat.

The old line crossed the ridge without a tunnel. The shortest route for the HSL would cross a higher section of the ridge, approximately under Drenker Berg / Windberg (both 80 m). A tunnel would be necessary here, and it would also protect the landscape. It would be about 1800 m long, with a western portal near Ober-Bocholt. A slightly longer variant (shown in blue) would run further north, closer to the old line: it would need a tunnel of 900m, at most.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Venlo - Neuss crossing the Süchtelner Höhen and river Niers

On the other side of the ridge, the HSL would pass north of Vorst (part of Süchteln, which gives its name to the ridge). It would then cross the canalised Niers river. Like the Nette valley, the lower ground along the river is a protected zone, but it is already crossed by motorways and roads.

The new line would pass between another village called Vorst, and Anrath, to reach the existing Viersen – Krefeld line. Here, there would be a grade-separated junction, for trains from Venlo to Krefeld / Duisburg. The HSL itself would cross the line, still in the same direction, toward Willich.

Click to enlarge…


North of Willich it would join the high-speed rail line (HSL) Nijmegen – Köln , and trains would use that line into Neuss Hauptbahnhof. The line would pass south of Osterath, cross the A57 and the A52, and enter Neuss from the north-west.

Click to enlarge…

As with the HSL from Nijmegen, trains would serve Neuss itself (population 151 000), and connect to S-Bahn services into Düsseldorf (population 582 000), on the other side of the Rhine. Most trains would continue another 36 km, to Köln. With a length of 80 km, the Venlo – Köln journey time should be cut to 30 minutes. Two main services would use the new line from Venlo:

  • an extension of the existing Intercity service from Den Haag, via Rotterdam, Breda, Tilburg, and Eindhoven, on to Köln.
  • a new high-speed service over a HSL Antwerpen – Eindhoven, continuing via Venlo and Krefeld to the main Ruhr axis Duisburg / Essen / Dortmund.

Both of these could be extended to further destinations. Since both would share tracks between Eindhoven and Venlo, upgrading of that line would be needed, and possibly a new HSL by-passing Helmond. The existing line to Viersen and Mönchengladbach would not be affected, and should in any case be upgraded. At Venlo, the new line would also connect with the proposed HSL corridor along the Maas (Nijmegen – Venlo – Maastricht), and with the proposed inter-regional service Antwerpen – Weert – Venlo.

High-speed rail line Venlo – Neuss

High-speed rail line Nijmegen – Köln

This proposed high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke, Neubaustrecke) south from Nijmegen, is an extension of the proposed high-speed rail line Amersfoort – Wageningen – Nijmegen. Together, they would create a complete alternative route, from Amsterdam to the Rhine-Ruhr region, complementing the existing main route along the right bank of the Rhine (Utrecht – Arnhem – Oberhausen, 1856).

The new line would be a successor to the 146-km Linksniederrheinische Strecke, the ‘left-bank Lower Rhine route’ from Nijmegen to Köln, via Kempen and Krefeld. That line lost its international passenger traffic in 1988: it is still in use from Kleve to Krefeld, but the Kleve – Nijmegen section has been lifted.

Planning for the high-capacity freight line from Rotterdam, the Betuweroute, included a ‘southern branch’ extending south from around Nijmegen. It is indicated on the regional plan Noord-Brabant as a straight line from Valburg to Venlo. The project has been deferred until at least 2020. A high-speed passenger line southwards from Nijmegen, parallel to the existing Maas valley line to Venlo, was never seriously considered. The proposal here uses an alignment entirely east of the Maas, which does not appear in any official proposals.

Nijmegen lies on the Rhine, not the Maas. It is a large regional centre and university city, with 161 000 inhabitants. Together with Arnhem, 15 km to to the north, it forms the Urban Region Arnhem / Nijmegen with around 720 000 inhabitants. The city is built on a low plateau, and the station is at its western edge. The Maas valley line (built 1883) first follows the older rail line to Kleve, in the forested plateau south of the city. It then turns south, descending to the Maas at Mook, 11 km from Nijmegen station. It crosses the Maas, and then passes through towns such as Cuijk and Boxmeer, to Blerick. This 50-km section is an almost straight line, through flat land on the western side of the river. At Blerick, the Maas valley line crosses the river again, into Venlo, and then continues toward Maastricht.

Via Venlo is not the shortest route, from Nijmegen to anywhere in the Rhineland. The HSL alignment proposed here is more direct. It leaves the Nijmegen plateau at a low escarpment (near the Reichswald), and runs through flat agricultural land along the river Niers.

The new high-speed line would start at a fully reconstructed Nijmegen Station. With a platform west of the existing island platform, the line would need to cross the tracks to/from Den Bosch. The line would then use extra tracks, alongside the existing line southwards, passing Heyendaal Station.

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South of Heyendaal, the line has several curves, which would need improvement. (Shifting the line here, in forest or sports fields, is not a problem). Where the old line to Kleve splits from the Maas valley line, the new line would continue south-east through the forest, parallel to the road Biesseltsebaan.

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The line would reach its highest point at the edge of the forest, at about 80m. From there, it would descend across undulating farmland, south of Groesbeek. At the edge of the Reichswald, there is a drop of 30m, to the flood-plain of the Niers and Maas. At this point a combination of cutting and viaduct would be needed. The total 70 m descent, over 3 km, is well within the capacity of high-speed trains.

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The line would pass east of Milsbeek, through open flat farmland on reclaimed marsh. It would then cross the Niers, just east of Ottersum. The alignment would run alongside a meander of the Niers east of Gennep (crossing the former Boxteler Bahn). It would pass the small village of Hommersum, and cross the A77 / A57 motorway, just east of the border post.

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The alignment continues through flat, open countryside, passing the eastern edge of the forests of Broedersbosch and Eckeltse Bergen. (The proposed line passes areas of intensive farming, and these forest remnants are the only protected zones). The HSL is now parallel to the Kleve – Krefeld line, about 8 km further east.

The HSL would then approximately follow the Spanische Ley drainage channel and the L486, past Weeze airport. The airport is on slightly higher ground, hidden behind trees. It is a former British airbase, built during the Cold War, at a deliberately remote location. It is now used by low-cost carriers, who are not deterred by the inconvenience: Ryanair tells passengers it is in Düsseldorf. Closure of this airport is a more rational option, than connecting it to the HSL.

South of the airport, the line would turn slightly more to the east. It would pass the south edge of the former US weapons depot west of Twisteden (part of it is used as a bungalow park). The line would pass 1 km south of Twisteden, and then pass the north end of the Steprather Heide forest. This is slightly higher ground (10 m at most), surrounded by intensive horticulture: the HSL would pass just south of the Thielen flower distribution centre.

The line would parallel the K17 road, south of Lüllingen, and then pass between Geldern and Pont, crossing the B58 road. It would then cross the Niers again, about 500m north of the prison at Pont. In the fields beside the river, the HSL would cross the former Venlo – Wesel line.

After the Niers, the HSL would cross the Kleve – Krefeld line. It would then run parallel to it, at the northern edge of Nieukerk and Aldekerk, through open fields. Here the HSL would be exactly parallel to the existing line, and about 600 m from it. After passing Aldekerk, it would turn more to the south, crossing the Autobahn A40, about 500-1000 m west of junction 6.

The HSL would pass either east or west of Haus Gastendonk. It would continue through open farmland between St. Hubert and Hüls, passing close to the B9 road. The power line on the image is important, because it provides a corridor along the western edge of Krefeld. It is a straight line, almost entirely free of buildings (the power line itself would probably go underground).

As it enters this corridor, the HSL would cross the Kleve – Krefeld line again. At this point, there would be a connecting curve (shown in red), for trains into Krefeld. The city has a population of 238 000, and is the regional centre for the Niederrhein region. With a new link across the Rhine, trains could continue to Düsseldorf Airport and Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof.

At the end of the power line (at the ThysenKrupp steelworks), the new HSL would cross the old line from Krefeld to Mönchengladbach via Willich. It would turn south-east here, and cross the Autobahn A44. The proposed high-speed link line from Venlo would join the line here.

The new line would pass between Willich and Osterath, and then cross the A57 (avoiding gravel pits). It would then join the existing rail line from Krefeld into Neuss. This is also part of the Linksniederrheinische Strecke: it would be upgraded, and widened to 4 tracks. The line crosses the Autobahn A52, and enters Neuss from the north-west. It joins the 4-track line from Düsseldorf, and turns south to the station.

Neuss has a population of 151 000, but trains on the HSL would stop there primarily to offer a connection to Düsseldorf (population 582 000), on the other side of the Rhine. The two main stations are 11 km apart, with an intensive service (at present three S-Bahn and two Regional-Express lines). South of Neuss Hauptbahnhof, there are four connecting rail routes: to Köln, to Grevenbroich, to Mönchengladbach, and the S-Bahn line to Kaarst (which turns north-west).

The line Nijmegen – Neuss would be about 95 km long, station to station. It could be built for 300 km/h, allowing a journey time of around 25 minutes.

South of Neuss, the existing main line to Köln would be upgraded (Ausbaustrecke). This section is almost a straight line, and it is only 36 km long, so a complete new line would offer no advantages. Conversion to a 4-track line, separation of all local and freight traffic from the fast tracks, and a line speed of 200 km/h, are sufficient. From Worringen into Köln Hauptbahnhof (15 km) there are already separate S-Bahn tracks.

Widening this line will require some demolition of line-side housing, for instance in southern Neuss. Even there, however, much of the line passes sports fields and allotment gardens. At Dormagen, the line passes through Chempark Dormagen, a 570-hectare chemical industry zone, around the original Bayer plant. A 4-track tunnel seems the only option here.

The total length of the route from Nijmegen to Köln would be about 135 km. With a Neuss – Köln journey time of under 20 minutes, a time of 45 minutes for Nijmegen – Köln should be feasible. That is an average speed of 178 km/h, realistic for a second-generation HSL. In combination with the high-speed rail line Amersfoort – Wageningen – Nijmegen, an Amsterdam – Köln journey time of around 1 h 40 min should be feasible. The present best time is 2h 38 min (ICE via Oberhausen). For comparison, an alignment via Venlo would be substantially longer, and it is not necessary for any specific routing. (The proposed high-speed link from Venlo would allow trains from Rotterdam and Eindhoven, to access the Nijmegen – Neuss HSL).

Construction of the new HSL would reinstate a link from Nijmegen to Krefeld, which was one of the arguments for re-opening of the Kleve – Nijmegen section. It might then be more logical to extend the regional service Krefeld – Kleve north across the Rhine, to Elten, and on into Arnhem. That would require a new 10-km line from Kleve to Elten, with a Rhine bridge or tunnel.

High-speed rail line Nijmegen – Köln