Upgrading line Arnhem – Emmerich

A high-speed rail line Arnhem – Oberhausen was proposed here earlier. This post looks at the Arnhem – Emmerich section in more detail.

The line at Babberich: the proposed HSL would diverge left here…


Proposals for a high speed line (HSL) between Arnhem and the Ruhr have been circulating for decades, but the Arnhem – Oberhausen line has remained largely unchanged. It is also underused: the only regular passenger service is the two-hourly ICE Amsterdam – Köln – Frankfurt. There is freight traffic: at Zevenaar, the line connects to the new freight-only Betuwe route to Rotterdam. Nevertheless, the planned improvements to the line in Germany were never implemented. Neither the Dutch or German government is very interested in this route, which is typical for cross-border lines. The regional governments (Gelderland and Nordrhein-Westfalen) are not interested in regional services either. Although the line is electrified, it carries slow diesel trains on the Dutch side, and none beyond Emmerich on the German side.


The 31-km Arnhem – Emmerich line crosses the IJssel river at the edge of Arnhem, and then runs through the Rhine plain, about 3-5 km from the river. The terrain is flat, apart from the hill at Elten, where the line is sharply curved. On the Dutch side, the region is called the Liemers: it is urbanised between Arnhem and Zevenaar, but otherwise the line runs through farmland. The total population served by the line to Emmerich is about 100 000.

At Zevenaar, the line to Winterswijk branches from the main line. It carries a diesel service to Doetinchem, with half the trains continuing to Winterswijk. Upgrading of the main line should allow for a grade-separated junction with the Winterswijk branch, which should be electrified.

Apart from the HSL, some other proposals here are relevant. The most important is the proposed Elten – Kleve rail link, with a new Rhine bridge or tunnel. It would connect the line out of Arnhem, with the Linksniederrheinische Strecke, which at present terminates at Kleve. (The line would parallel the old Elten – Spyk – Kleve line, which crossed the Rhine by ferry).


The new link would carry an urban-regional service from Arnhem to Kleve, requiring additional capacity between Arnhem and Elten. It would also be used by a longer regional line, from Krefeld or further south. That line could run to Emmerich, using a curve east of Elten (in yellow on the map). South of the Rhine, the Nijmegen – Kleve line would be restored. That does not directly affect the line north of the river, but it would probably increase traffic on the Kleve – Elten link.

There are no passenger services between Zevenaar and Emmerich. The ICE runs non-stop from Arnhem to Oberhausen. Three long-distance night trains (EC / CNL) from Amsterdam stop at Emmerich, primarily to change locomotives. The freight-only Betuwe route runs in tunnel through Zevenaar, alongside the old main line, and surfaces at the edge of the town, 4 km from the German border.

Emmerich, 17 km from Zevenaar, is the terminus of Regional-Express line RE 5, the hourly ‘Rhein-Express’ to Köln and Koblenz. It is also served by Regionalbahn line RB 35 to Oberhausen and Duisburg, with 8 trains per day on weekdays.

Intercity to Emmerich?

In the short term, connections could be improved by extending Amsterdam – Arnhem Intercity trains to Emmerich. That requires no new infrastructure, although perhaps some adjustments to Emmerich station. (At present the voltage changes at Emmerich, but it is planned to relocate that to near Elten).

In the Netherlands, there are two domestic Intercity services to Arnhem: one from Amsterdam (starting at Den Helder), and one from Schiphol Airport. Each runs at 30-minute intervals, and they are combined into a 15-minute Intercity service from Utrecht. They all reverse in Arnhem, and run south to Nijmegen. One of these services could terminate at Emmerich, the other would still serve Nijmegen. In the long term, Regional-Express line RE 5 should be extended to Arnhem, a major rail junction. Emmerich would be served by an urban-regional service (S-Bahn) from Arnhem, connecting with the RB 35 line, or its successor.

HSL and upgrading

The proposed high-speed rail line Arnhem – Oberhausen would generally follow the existing alignment through Wesel to Oberhausen. To avoid the hill at Elten, however, a bypass of Elten and Emmerich is preferable. It would run alongside the E35 motorway (A12 in the Netherlands, BAB3 in Germany).

High-speed rail line Arnhem - Oberhausen, bypass Elten and Emmerich

The HSL would diverge from the existing line at Babberich. Nevertheless, the section through Elten and Emmerich would also need extra capacity, for the proposed new services to Kleve, for an urban-regional service Arnhem – Emmerich, and for gradually increasing freight traffic. The line can not be left in its existing state. Extra capacity wold also allow the reopening of stations at Babberich and Elten.


The first requirement is four tracks through Arnhem itself, and a grade-separated junction with the line to Deventer and Zwolle. This is a locally controversial project, because of the restricted space in residential areas at the edge of the city centre. The existing Velperpoort Station would also need to close.

The second essential is a new bridge across the IJssel river. That requires a decision on whether the new line should be built parallel to the old line (parallel Neubaustrecke), or the old line upgraded and four-tracked (Ausbaustrecke). A parallel high-speed line could diverge from the existing line inside Arnhem, and use a separate bridge over the IJssel. That might be easier to build, but a four-track line would maximise capacity here.

In any case, the new bridge should take account of the curve at Westervoort station, which should be improved, possibly shifting the line slightly northwards. The stations in Westervoort and Duiven are centrally located, but there is more than enough space for four tracks here. All level crossings would be replaced by an underpass.


The curve at the edge of Zevenaar needs improvement, which may require limited demolition. The Betuwe Route joins the line here, or more accurately, it drops into tunnel and runs alongside the older line. The junction itself is on the other side of Zevenaar. Again there is more than enough space for extra tracks here, but the tunnel prevents the replacement of level crossings by an underpass. The only other option is to lower the rail line and station: a tunnel is not necessary since the line is at the edge of the built-up area anyway.

Zevenaar: base map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC3.0 licence


There is a new housing development on the eastern side of Zevenaar (population 32 000), but it is best served by a new station on the Doetinchem line. East of Zevenaar, a station could be re-opened at Babberich (population 2000). That is dependent on the form of the HSL junction, which would leave the old line here. It is probably easier to construct a new alignment north of Babberich, at the same time correcting two curves.

The old line turns south-east here, to avoid the Montferland ridge. At the tip of the ridge, 5 km from Babberich, is Elten (population 4700). The station can be re-opened on its original site on the Lobither Strasse. It would also serve Lobith and Tolkamer in the Netherlands. The road through Elten (Bundesstrasse 8) can be rerouted past the station, avoiding the centre (dotted line). A new road alignment is also needed south of Elten, to replace a narrow and dangerous under-bridge.

Bahnhof Elten: base map by Jan-Willem van Aalst, CC3.0 licence


The sharp curve at Elten can not be improved: it is fixed by geography, at the point where the ridge meets the Rhine floodplain. Trains that stop at Elten would not be going too fast here anyway, 800 m from the station. The level crossing on the curve itself would be replaced. The proposed line to Kleve would diverge from the existing line, between the station and the curve.

The remaining 7 km to Emmerich are relatively straight. An additional station is possible at Hüthum, at the underpass, serving about 3000 people. In Emmerich itself, several crossings must be replaced, probably with an underpass. The line approaching the station, and especially the station itself, must be upgraded. (Like many German stations it is shabby, reflecting the low social status of rail travel there). Emmerich would be the interchange station between S-bahn services from Arnhem, and the RE 5, or its successor. The few remaining international overnight trains would disappear: it would not make sense to run them parallel to a HSL.

Upgrading line Arnhem – Emmerich

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