Arriva Flirt in Aachen

EUROPE: Cross-border regional trains connecting Aachen, Maastricht and Liège are on course to begin with the December 2023 timetable change, following the signing of a letter of intent between the Netherlands and Belgium on March 13.

The agreement was signed by the Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure & Water Management Vivianne Heijnen, Belgian Minister for Mobility Georges Gilkinet and Limburg’s provincial deputy for Mobility & Infrastructure Maarten van Gaans-Gijbels.

Writing to the Dutch parliament the following day, Heijnen explained that ‘within the Euregio area of Liège-Maastricht-Aachen there is a lot of interconnection and a great deal of daily traffic as people cross the border for leisure, education or work. With better connections, the economy in the region will grow even further.’

The Drielandtrein project to improve connections between the three border regions was initiated in June 2016, since when there have been intensive discussions between the local transport authorities, infrastructure managers and operators. The letter of intent setting out the arrangements for through working is based on a joint business case prepared by NS for the Dutch government, by Arriva for the province of Limburg and by SNCB for the Belgian government.

At present there is an hourly SNCB service between Liège and Maastricht, and Arriva Nederland runs two trains/h on route RE18 between Maastricht and Germany: one to Herzogenrath and one to Aachen. Under the accord, through trains will run from Aachen to Liège, avoiding the need to change in Maastricht.

The fleet of 36 Stadler multi-system Flirt EMUs procured by Arriva Nederland to operate regional services in Limburg has been retrofitted with Guardia ETCS onboard equipment to facilitate cross-border operation into Belgium, while agreements have been reached over the deployment of Dutch and Belgian staff. The partners have also agreed to co-operate on ticket sales and pricing, with Heijnen explaining that ‘the starting point here is that the traveller is central and that the journey should be as barrier-free as possible’.

Noting that the service would serve local universities including Maastricht UMC+ and MECC at Randwyck as well as the Zuijd University of Applied Sciences, Brightland Campus at Heerlen, she added that the cross-border service would connect with high speed trains at both Liège and Aachen, providing easier access to ‘cities such as Köln, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris’.