ProRail and Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region investigated the possibilities for improving the quality of cross-border public railway transport. These partners will conducted a feasibility study to include a business case into reopening the former rail corridor between Nijmegen in the Netherlands and Kleve in Germany. This line was closed in 1991, and there is now a bus connection between Kleve and Nijmegen, which is enjoying increasing patronage. Despite a long period of non-use, parts of the route are now used for tourism (it is possible to hire pedal-powered draisines in Groesbeek, Kranenburg and Kleve).

The feasibility of a new connection between the Kleve-Weeze railway line and Weeze Airport was also investigated.

The reactivation of the route to Kleve also brings the Ruhr metropolitan area within closer range.

The project plan has been developed by ProRail and the Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region.

Various alternatives

Cross-border public transport means different things to different people. The study will develop three transport modes (tram, tram-train and Regional Express). Each mode will be developed further as an alternative.

  • Tram option: Trams that use their own line, with the possibility of integrating it with the proposed tram network to be developed in Nijmegen.
  • Tram-train option: Here tram-trains are operated that can use the 'heavy rail' infrastructure under certain conditions.
  • Regional Express: Some German stakeholders have already indicated that they are interested in extending the Düsseldorf-Kleve Regional Express to Nijmegen. This is a traditional heavy rail solution.

Certain variations are possible within these options. Ultimately, after a selection process, one variation per option will remain to be developed further (ready by Spring 2010). These alternatives will subsequently undergo further technical development. Finally, based on wide-ranging considerations, a recommendation will be made regarding which alternative is best suited to meet the wishes of the parties involved (ready in autumn 2010).

Various alternatives will be examined at the beginning of the study, which will then be developed further with regard to their transport value and technology. A preferred alternative will subsequently be chosen.

This work is an initial phase in a longer-term project to apply the tram-train concept in this context including:

  • Determination of the required technical adaptations to the abandoned infrastructure
  • Study of the accommodation of the tram-train in the stations of Nijmegen and Kleve
  • Study of planning the upgrade of the section in phases according to administrative feasibility

Results indicated a sound technical and economic case for tram or tram-train on the reactivated line Nijmegen-Kleve, but an extension to the regional airport of Weeze was not economically feasible. However there were differences of view on a preferred option, with Dutch partners preferring the tram-based option but German partners favoured extension of the DB Regional Express services  Dusseldorf-Keleve on to Nijmegen,using heavy rail line. Either way, the capital cost of the tram-based option meant that the Nijmegen -Kleve scheme has been postponed into  a longer term future, if at all.

In the “Sintropher Plus” project extension, the Province of Gelderland (the transport authority and strategic planning authority for the region) assessed innovative use of battery power technology for regional trains on two of the region’s non-electrified routes, compared to cost of full electrification - the line Arnhem – Elst – Tiel is 40 km. long of which the first 10 km Arnhem-Elst, is electrified and part of the busy corridor Arnhem-Nijmegen. The line Arnhem-Doetinchem - Winterswijk (65 km) is one of the busiest regional lines in the Netherlands, located in another spatial development corridor. There is a strong Provincial focus on the electrification of such regional lines but the economic case is likely to be weak (mainly due to cost) so one option is the potentially lower cost alternative of battery-powered trains, similar to a trial being conducted in East Anglia (UK) by Network Rail,

An important element  was to also assess the socio-economic benefits for the spatial corridors along the lines,  to see how investment in these transport links could help unlock economic development and regeneration opportunities related to stations on the route - in particular the feasibility of two new regional railway stations: Arnhem Pley and Zevenaar Poort.