By 2024 the first section of the ‘Wunderline’ railway connection between Groningen and Bremen is scheduled to be completed and operational. This is the section of the railway connection between Groningen and Leer. This means that the construction of new Friesenbrücke near Weener shall also have to be completed by then. This was jointly agreed upon by all involved representatives – Tjeerd Postma (Wunderline project manager of the Province of Groningen), Thomas Boom (Meines Holla & Partners in The Hague, representing the Provincial Government in this project) and Ulf Thiele (CDU-parliamentarian of the Federal State of Lower-Saxony) – during a meeting recently held in Leer. “We are right on schedule”, an optimistic Ulf Thiele told us. “Yet there are still some financial aspects to be cleared”, he added. However, he is not sympathetic to Deutsche Bahn AG’s wish to have local municipalities also contribute in the costs, even considering this idea to be “absurd”. Which is why he is pleased that the Federal State of Lower Saxony has committed itself to cover the costs for a cycling path on the bridge.
The Netherlands consider this project a key priority. “The new coalition in the Groningen Provincial Government has yet again included the expansion of the railway connection in its coalition agreement, an issue which is regularly inquired about in parliament”, says Tjeerd Postma. However, we are not always fully informed about the latest developments, especially regarding the Friesenbrücke. In this context Postma notes that “we are indeed quite dissatisfied with the flow of information provided by Deutsche Bahn”, as such referring to the fact that this German railway company failed to provide any information what so ever for over a year, after which only quite recently new updates were offered during a work meeting also attended by the Province of Groningen.
“In Netherlands official government representatives are usually treated quite differently. We try to engage – and try to keep engaging – as many parties as possible, thus reducing processing time regarding realisation and construction, Postma states. However, all three representatives mentioned here do consider it a good sign that by now Deutsche Bahn considers the Wunderline as a key priority within its own expansion program as well and is therefore now also clearly and increasingly supporting this project. “This commitment offers higher prospects of a rapid realisation – of the second part van the project as well”, Ulf Thiele emphasises.
As regards the funding of the Wunderline “we are together with the Federal State of Lower Saxony in the process of acquiring EU funds”, Tjeerd Postma explains. According to him, the planning costs “have – up until now – predominantly been covered by the Netherlands”. The necessary investments for the expansion the 173 kilometres long railway connection between Groningen and Bremen has been estimated to amount to 128 million euros. February this year, the Province of Groningen, the Federal State of Lower Saxony and the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, have reached a collaboration agreement regarding the realisation of an improved railway connection between Groningen and Bremen. The expansion shall be realised in two phases.
The first phase involves the railway stretch between Groningen and Leer, the second one the Leer-Oldenburg connection. The Netherlands would very much like to see both phases realised at the same time. Travelling time between Groningen and Bremen is to be reduced from 2 hours and 43 minutes in 2015 to 2 hours and 26 minutes in 2024 – after the first expansion phase that is – and ultimately to 2 hours and 11 minutes in 2030, after the second expansion phase is completed. The involved parties also hope to see an increased number of cross-border passengers: from 700 travellers (in 2015) to 1900 after the expansion. These increased numbers are an estimation based on comparable railway connections, such as the one between Enschede and Münster. “The Wunderline is a fantastic project for the German-Dutch infrastructure in our border region”, Ulf Thiele emphasises. It shall allow the Province of Groningen and the North-western part of Lower Saxony including the Leer district to grow closer together. He therefore intends to remain in close contact with the liaison representatives on both the Lower Saxony as well as the Dutch side of the border. His intention is also to ensure a permanent dialogue with these contacts in order to identify any possible problems at an early stage and thus be able to help address them immediately. “To this cause, frequent meetings are important and quite worthwhile”, Ulf Thiele emphasises.