Work is getting underway on a €1bn conversion of two heavy rail corridors serving Rotterdam and Den Haag into metro and light rail routes that will start operation next year. Harry Hondius MSc reports

AUGUST 2006 is due to see the start of light rail and metro services on the two former railway routes serving the eastern suburbs of Den Haag. After many years of debate, work is finally getting underway on the ambitious €1bn RandstadRail conversion project following the signing of a formal accord between the national and local governments in 2003.

It is a long and complex story. Planning for RandstadRail began towards the end of the 1980s, when it was recognised that mobility in the southern part of the Randstad conurbation could be improved by making better use of two under-used and loss-making railway routes. Upgrading and conversion to light rail was the preferred option.

The Zoetermeer and Hofplein lines were both designated by NS Reizigers as 'contract' lines which could not be operated profitably, and thus needed a subsidy from the Transport Ministry. In total, NS has designated 33 such routes around the Netherlands, which are gradually being handed over to local authorities and the operations put out to competitive tender. But as has happened in other cases, the parties involved with the two Randstad routes could not agree on the appropriate level of support.

A mixed heritage

The 23·9 km line from Rotterdam Hofplein to Pijnacker and Den Haag (originally continuing to Scheveningen) is the older of the two routes. Opened in 1908, it was originally planned to be wired at 800V DC but was finally electrified at 10 kV 25Hz, with its own power station at Leidschendam-Voorburg; another notable feature was its reinforced concrete viaduct leading to the centre of Rotterdam, which is now a listed historical structure.

In 1917 the Hofplein line carried 5 million passengers. In 1926, it was converted to the new national standard of 1·5 kV DC, the power station was dismantled, and the depot converted to form the central workshop for NS EMU maintenance. Reconstructed in 1947 after war damage, the Voorburg - Scheveningen section was abandoned in 1953, and from 1973 the trains were diverted into Den Haag CS.

At the Rotterdam end, a pair of connections was built at Kleiweg to the Rotterdam - Gouda main line, so the line could provide a diversionary route to relieve the double track main line between Rotterdam and Den Haag via Delft and Schiedam. Today the line handles around 2·1 million passengers a year, with a basic 30min interval service, increasing to every 15min at peak times. NS first applied to close the Hofplein line back in 1968.

The Zoetermeer line is much newer, being built in two phases in 1975-80 to serve a new satellite town east of Den Haag. At that time the city's tram operator HTM declined to operate new routes outside the city boundary. Electrified at 1·5 kV from new, the 17·3 km pretzel-shaped route is marked by the modern architecture of its closely-spaced stations. Platform height is 840mm compared to 750mm at most of the Hofplein line stations.

Today the Zoetermeer line is carrying around 5 million passengers a year. Services run every 15min off-peak and every 10min at peak times. Both lines are worked by two-car Sprinter EMUs offering 144 seats. With all axles motored, these 51m long sets have an installed power of 13·4 kW/tonne and can run at up to 125 km/h. During the peak hours, trains can be formed of up to three units in multiple.

Conversion proposals

The first proposals for RandstadRail, launched in 1990, envisaged creating three light rail corridors, partly running in tunnel under the centre of Den Haag: Delft Zuid - Centrum - Scheveningen, Zoetermeer - Centrum - Scheveningen and Rotterdam - Scheveningen.

While these proposals were being debated, Den Haag decided on July 1 1993 to build a 1·25 km east-west tram tunnel in the city centre, combined with underground parking for 374 cars. After a lengthy construction period, the tunnel finally opened on October 16 2004. The total cost was €235m, of which the state paid €127m, Den Haag €58m and the Haaglanden regional government €31m.

This decision to build the tunnel strongly influenced the future planning for RandstadRail. Three new proposals were presented in 1997. Option 1 envisaged a connection between RET's metro in Rotterdam and the Hofplein line, leaving the Zoetermeer line to continue running into Den Haag CS. Option 2 was to link the western side of Den Haag with Zoetermeer and connect the RET metro with Scheveningen via the Hofplein line. The final idea was to integrate the Hoek van Holland - Schiedam line into the RET network to create a single system serving the southern part of the Randstad.

In the end it was decided to adopt a variant of Option 2. The Rotterdam metro will take over the Hofplein line, and run into Den Haag CS at ground level, using Platforms 11 and 12. The Zoetermeer line will run into CS above ground and be connected to HTM's elevated tram station; the LRVs will continue through the new tram tunnel and take over tram routes 3 and 6 serving the southwest of Den Haag. The Scheveningen options were dropped, but a new 3·5 km branch is being built from Zoetermeer to Oosterheem.

Shared responsibility

After lengthy discussions, the public transport authorities Stadsgewest Haaglanden and Stadsregio Rotterdam reached agreement with the Ministry of Transport over ownership, management and funding of RandstadRail in 2003.

The ministry will transfer the management of the two railways from ProRail to Stadsregio Rotterdam and Stadsgewest Haaglanden, who will each maintain the tracks in their area and be responsible for the conversion from railway to metro or light rail operation. Stadsregio Rotterdam is responsible for the Hofplein line as far as Leidschenveen, whilst Stadsgewest Haaglanden takes over the Zoetermeer line and the common section between Leidschenveen and Laan van Nieuw Oostindi?€? (LOI) in Den Haag.

Total budget for RandstadRail has been agreed at €1bn. The government is providing a fixed sum of €800m, with the rest coming from the local authorities in Rotterdam, Den Haag, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Berkel & Rodenrijs and Pijnacker-Nootdorp. Any special requirements over and above the base project will have to be financed separately. Den Haag will carry the project risks for the 60% of the network in its territory, and Rotterdam will do the same for its share. If any of the allocated funding is not required, the remainder will be reserved for future expansion.

Rotterdam has delegated responsibility for reconstruction and operation of the Hofplein line to RET, although the length of the concession is not yet clear.

Haaglanden has awarded a turnkey contract for the works in Den Haag to Project Office RandstadRail, part of the municipal development department DSO. PORR will make any modifications to the existing tram lines needed to allow the operation of 2650mm wide light rail vehicles, and will work with ProRail to convert the railway sections to light rail.

HTM Personenvervoer has a concession to operate the existing tram network and new light rail lines until 2017, and has ordered the new LRVs. HTM has promised the ministry that by 2010 the farebox recovery rate on its rail services will improve from the present 36% to 40%.

Demanding logistics

Technically, the project is very demanding, because of the need to keep the rail service operational during as much of the conversion period as possible. As a result, the process is likely to change as work progresses. The timescale is very tight; there will be a six-week blockade on the Zoetermeer line in the summer of 2006, after which RandstadRail services are due to start running from Zoetermeer and Hofplein to Den Haag CS.

Although the tram-train concept is being tested on ProRail's Gouda - Alphen-a/d-Rijn branch until 2007 (RG 4.03 p225), RandstadRail will be totally segregated from the national network. ProRail has agreed to give up its valuable diversionary route between Den Haag and Rotterdam. A 1·8 km single-track spur from the Den Haag - Gouda line, known as the Nootdorp-boog, will provide access to the NS Reizigers EMU workshops at Leidschendam-Voorburg. Including a bridge over the A12 motorway, this spur will cost €57m to build.

In November 2004 it was decided not to retain the 1·5 kV DC traction supply, but to switch to 750V, with around 14 new substations replacing the existing three relatively old feeders. One of the reasons for this is that ProRail is not allowed by law to sell power to HTM and RET, and the supply would be cheaper if bought at 750V DC.

There is also a reduction of around 1250 kg per car from eliminating the voltage choppers, as well as a saving of the equipment cost. Against this, the power transmission losses will be higher for 750V. The specification for the 50 dual-voltage RegioCitadis LRVs which HTM has ordered from Alstom LHB (RG 9.05 p585) has therefore been changed to 750/600V DC.

The existing overhead line equipment will be retained, but the NX signalling and ATB will be removed. Both lines will be fitted with the Siemens ZUB 222 train control system and new colourlight signals, spaced to allow 100 km/h on the RET section and 80 km/h on the HTM part. The ZUB on-board equipment will automatically manage the voltage change from 750 to 600V as the LRVs run onto the tram network.

Rebuilding in Rotterdam

At the Rotterdam end, RET will bore a 2·4 km tunnel from the end of its Erasmus Line at Centraal Station to St Franciscus Gasthuis, and from there the line will continue at grade to meet the Hofplein line at Kleiweg. There will be one underground station at Blijdorp, and a new stop at Melachtonweg, which will provide interchange with tram route 5, a few hundred metres north of the present Kleiweg station.

There will be further stations on RET's section of the Hofplein line at Wilgenplas/Meijerplein, Rodenrijs, Berkel Westpolder (new), Pijnacker-Zuid (new), Pijnacker Centrum, Nootdorp (new) and Leidschenveen (new). Existing platforms will be raised to 1000mm above rail, and lengthened from 100m to 120m to accommodate up to three metro trainsets in multiple. All the station buildings will be renewed.

Pijnacker Centrum station will be resited, and the line lowered into cutting to eliminate a busy level crossing; the neighbouring station at Pijnacker-Nootdorp will be eliminated as part of these works.

An express bus running south from Zoetermeer will connect with RandstadRail at Rodenrijs, and the new station at Leidschenveen will be served by HTM's new tram route 19, linking Voorburg, Leidschenveen and Nootdorp with Delft.

RET plans to order a fleet of 21 three-section articulated trainsets suitable for 750V DC overhead and third rail operation. These 42m long units will be 2700mm wide with a floor height of 1050mm; all axles will be motored. Bombardier and CAF are amongst the bidders prequalified for this contract.

HTM works

Reconstruction of the Zoetermeer line in the summer of 2006 will see the ballast raised by around 540mm, effectively reducing the platform height from 840 to 300mm to suit the low-floor RegioCitadis cars. The track will also be slewed closer to the platform edges to suit a car width of 2580mm compared to the 2883mm of the present trains.

However, the RandstadRail cars will be mechanically identical to the Kassel RegioCitadis vehicles, which are 2400mm wide at the entry level of 362mm above rail and are equipped with an electrically-operated bridge plate to cover the gap to the platform, bringing the entrance height down to 320mm. The HTM cars will have a fixed footstep, widening the vehicle to 2580mm and lowering the entrance height from 362 to 340mm.

This footstep arrangement was thought necessary to cope with the five stops on the common section, because the RET cars have non-retractable third rail shoes. Ironically, the fixed step will cause its own problems on the HTM tram sections, where the stops will be shared by GT8L cars on route 2, which are 2230mm wide at platform level, increasing to 2350mm wide overall.

Stations on the Zoetermeer line will be revamped, and equipped with lifts for disabled access where necessary; the present access ramps will be maintained. Voorweg will have platforms at both levels where the pretzel passes over itself.

The 3·5 km branch from Segwaert will serve three stops at Willem Dreeslaan, Oosterheem and Bertrand Russelllaan. The whole branch will run on viaduct, for which the additional €18m cost is being paid by the town of Zoetermeer.

From Leidschenveen to LOI, the RET and HTM services will share tracks. A new stop is to be added at Forepark, and the following bridge over De Vliet will be renewed and raised. Leidschendam-Voorburg and Voorburg t'Loo stations will be completely revamped. Like LOI, they will have a 1000mm high platform suitable for the 2700mm wide metro cars, ramping down to a 75m long end-on extension 300mm high where the RegioCitadis cars will call.

The present layout of LOI station is that tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 lead to Den Haag CS, whilst 5 and 6 serve the direct line to Den Haag HS and Delft. Platforms 3 and 4 are currently used by the Hofplein and Zoetermeer services, whilst 1, 2, 5 and 6 are used by trains to and from Leiden. In future, RandstadRail will have exclusive use of platforms 1 and 2, which will require remodelling of the dive-under at Schenkstrook which carries the Zoetermeer line under the Leiden route. South of LOI, the RET metro service will continue over the existing tracks to terminate in the northernmost platforms 11 and 12 at CS.

The HTM light rail services, routes 3 and 6, will diverge to the right after LOI onto a new viaduct along Beatrixlaan, where a new station is planned to serve an office development. The link will connect with HTM's elevated tram route 2 at the present site of HTM's only pre-metro station, Ternoot, which will be moved further north. Zoetermeer services will use the existing high-level tram station at CS, which is being rebuilt with a new glazed roof and facilities for RandstadRail services to reverse.

From here, routes 2, 3 and 6 descend into the new tram tunnel to serve the underground stations at Spuistraat and Grote Markt, and then call at the surface stops at Brouwersgracht and Westeinde Ziekenhuis. Route 3 will then turn right to Waldeck Pyrmontkade and then Laan van Meerdervoort, where it will run west for 5 km to Loosduinen. Routes 2 and 6 continue along Loosduinseweg, until Route 6 diverges left on a new track along Apeldoornselaan to reach the existing tram line in Escamplaan leading to De Uithof.

The tram tracks west of the tunnel will have to be modified to accommodate the RegioCitadis LRVs, especially Laan van Meerdervoort which is to be thoroughly remodelled. Beyond the tunnel, the light rail services will run on sight, as the trams do now.

Operating strategy

In August 2006 RET will take over the operation of the Hofplein line using nine of its existing SG2 'sneltram' LRVs, for which a temporary maintenance facility will have to be created in Leidschendam. Once the Statentunnel link to the Erasmus Line is ready in 2008, there will be a 10min interval through service between Den Haag CS, Rotterdam CS and Slinge.

When the Zoetermeer line reopens in August 2006 after the six-week blockade, HTM expects to have 25 RegioCitadis cars available to launch an initial service between Zoetermeer and Den Haag CS (high level). The remaining cars should be delivered by the time the Oosterheem branch and upgraded tram routes are ready in 2007, when the full service pattern can be introduced.

Route 3 would operate between Loosduinen and Zoetermeer Centrum with pairs of LRVs every 10min, initially separate but later coupled together. From Zoetermeer Centrum, the LRVs will turn right and run around the pretzel, returning from the left. Line 6 from De Uithof would also run to Zoetermeer every 10min, continuing via Centrum West and over the Oosterheem branch. Running time from Den Haag CS to Bertrand Russelllaan will be 28min.

The two-level station at Voorweg will offer frequent and convenient services in every direction, and passengers travelling between Zoetermeer and Rotterdam will be able to change at Leidschenveen, saving 15min. An express bus link from Centrum West to Rodenrijs will also provide connections to the metro.

The new service patterns and improved connections are expected to boost daily patronage on the Hofplein line from 7000 passenger journeys today to 28000 in 2010. Thanks to the better connection with Rotterdam and through services across Den Haag, ridership on the Zoetermeer line is forecast to jump from 17000 to 42000 passengers/day.

Although Scheveningen played a dominant part in all the earlier studies, it has been completely eliminated from the present RandstadRail project. Today the resort is almost impossible to reach by car in the high summer, and a supplementary Zoetermeer - Scheveningen service could be an attractive prospect, largely using existing infrastructure.

It would be quite easy to create a connection at Loosduinsekade or Laan van Meerdervoort with HTM route 11, which connects HS with Scheveningen. Opened in 1927, this line could easily accommodate the wider LRVs, because it was built with a UIC profile to accommodate freight traffic which ran to and from the fishing harbour until 1976.

A package of investment

The total cost of Randstadrail is now put at around €1·3bn. For this the regions will get 14·5 km of existing tramway brought up to light rail standards, a 1·25 km tram tunnel, 4·6 km of new light rail or tram line, the modernisation and conversion of 38·7 km of heavy rail line, and a 1·8 km rail connection.

HTM's tram depot at Zichtenburg will be completely renewed as the main base for the RegioCitadis fleet, where 25 cars will be stabled and all will be maintained. Another 17 cars will be based at Leidschendam, and eight will be outstationed overnight at Oosterheem.

The project will create a 62 km network served by 21 metro trainsets and 50 light rail cars at a cost of around €21m per km. One casualty will be the final 2·5 km of the Hofplein line in Rotterdam, including the innovative concrete viaduct, which will be abandoned in 2008, exactly 100 years after it opened.

  • CAPTION: The first new stop on the converted Hofplein line at Melachtonweg will provide interchange with RET tram route 5, replacing the present station at Kleiweg Image: PORR
  • CAPTION: Aerial view of the RandstadRail alignment in Rotterdam, showing the route for the new tunnel (dotted) and the existing Hofplein lne viaduct on the right which will be abandoned.
  • CAPTION: Before and after at Zoetermeer Driemanspolder. The Hofplein line stop is located on the opposite side of the A12 motorway from Zoetermeer station on the NS line from Den Haag to Gouda
  • CAPTION: Segwaert station on the Zoetermeer line, as it was in 2001 (left) and as it will be revamped as the junction for the new Oosterheem branch (right) Image: Holland Railconsult
  • CAPTION: Several new stations are to be added on the converted Hofplein line, including this stop at Berkel Westpolder
  • CAPTION: The single-track Nootdorp-boog will connect the NSR workshops at Leidschendam-Voorburg with the Gouda line, crossing the A12 motorway to run alongside the converted Hofplein line
  • CAPTION: The underpass at Schenkstrook is being modified to bring the RandstadRail tracks under the four-track main line from Leiden to reach the westernmost platforms at LOI Artist's impression: Van Hattem Blankevoort
  • CAPTION: Laan van Nieuw Oostindi?€? station looking south. RandstadRail will have exclusive use of the platforms on the right. Zoetermeer light rail services will diverge to the right beyond the station to reach the HTM tram network, and Hofplein line metro services will continue straight on to Den Haag CS
  • CAPTION: The connecting viaduct in Beatrixlaan wil link the railway at LOI with the tram viaduct. Ternoot station in the foreground is being relocated, as the attractive old pre-metro station has been demolished to make way for the RandstadRail connectionCAPTION: The high-level tram station at Den Haag CS is being refurbished to accommodate RandstadRail services
  • CAPTION: Platforms at the HTM tram subway stations are 300 mm above rail. The GT8L cars have steps of 405, 230 and 227 mm leading up to a car floor level at 862 mm.
  • CAPTION: The 2400mm wide Kassel RegioCitadis car has a fixed entrance height 362mm above rail, and a retractable step which extends up to 309 mm to cope with variable platform heights at different distances from the track. The HTM Zoetermeer cars will use a fixed step to avoid interfering with the third rail at stations on the joint light rail/metro sections
  • CAPTION: An HTM GT8L tram calls at the recently opened Spuistraat underground station, designed by local architect Rem Koolhaas. The cars are 2 150 mm wide at step level, widening to a maximum of 2 350 mm

RandstadRail starts to takes shape

After many years of debate and alternative proposals, work is getting underway on a €1bn conversion of two heavy rail corridors serving Rotterdam and Den Haag into metro and light rail routes that will be totally segregated from the ProRail network. New LRVs are on order to take over the Zoetermeer line in August 2006, but the rebuilt Hofplein line will not be connected to the Rotterdam metro until two years later. Harry Hondius reports on this ambitious project.

RandstadRail prend enfin forme

Après plusieurs années de débat et de propositions alternatives, les travaux commencent sur le projet, estimé à un milliard d'euros, consistant à convertir deux axes ferroviaires, desservant Rotterdam et Den Haag, en lignes de métro et de métro léger qui seront complètement isolées du réseau ProRail. Du nouveau matériel de type métro léger a été commandé pour assurer le service sur la ligne de Zoetermeer en août 2006, mais la ligne reconstruite de Hofplein ne sera connectée que deux ans plus tard au métro de Rotterdam. Harry Hondius rend compte de cet ambitieux projet

RandstadRail nimmt schliesslich Formen an

Nach vielen Jahren an Debatten und Alternativprojekten haben die Arbeiten an einem 1 Milliarde Euro teuren Umwandlung von zwei Vollbahn-Korridoren, welche Rotterdam und Den Haag bedienen, in vollständig vom ProRail-Netz getrennten Metro- und Stadtbahnstrecken, begonnen. Neue Stadtbahnfahrzeuge sind bestellt und werden die Zoetermeer-Linie im August 2006 übernehmen, aber die umgebaute Hofplein-Linie wird erst zwei Jahre später mit der Rotterdamer Metro verknüpft. Harry Hondius berichtet über dieses ambiti?€?se Projekt

RandstadRail toma forma finalmente

Tras muchos años de debate y de propuestas alternativas, ya han comenzado las obras para la conversión de dos pasillos ferroviarios entre Rotterdam y Den Haag a rutas de metro y de metro ligero por un valor de mil millones de euros. Estas rutas estar? n totalmente segregadas de la red ProRail. Los nuevos trenes ligeros ya han sido pedidos para ponerse a rodar en la línea Zoetermeer en agosto de 2006, pero la línea Hofplein que ser? reconstruida no estar? conectada a la red del metro de Rotterdam hasta pasados dos años. Harry Hondius nos informa de este ambicioso proyecto