The HSL-Zuid – short for Hogesnelheidslijn Zuid ("Southern High-Speed Line" in Dutch) – is a 125-km long high-speed railway line currently under construction in the Netherlands and Belgium. Scheduled for completion in 2007, it will be served by newly renovated Thalys trains from Amsterdam to Paris and Brussels. The line will also be used by domestic trains exclusively operated by the High Speed Alliance (HSA), a subsidiary of Nederlandse Spoorwegen and KLM; these so-called shuttle trains, operating over a combination of new and currently existing rail, will connect The Hague and Breda, with ongoing service to Antwerp and Brussels.
The Rijkswaterstaat, a department of the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, is responsible for the organization of the project. The government awarded the largest ever public-private partnership (PPP) contract to the consortium Infraspeed until 2030; it is responsible for design, construction, financing and maintenance. The line will feature state-of-the-art technology, including ETCS level 2 train control systems provided by Siemens AG and Alcatel.
South of Schiphol the dedicated high speed tracks begin, paralleling the existing railway line until Nieuw-Vennep. The line then branches off eastwards, continuing along the west side of Roelofarendsveen and Hoogmade and entering a tunnel east of Leiderdorp (this tunnel having been built in order to protect the character of the so-called Green Heart region). North of Zoetermeer the train line leaves the tunnel west of Hazerswoude-Dorp; it subsequently passes to the east of Benthuizen, and on an elevated track east of Zoetermeer, then back on the surface between Berkel en Rodenrijs and Bergschenhoek, and after a tunnel, joins the existing line again north of Rotterdam.
Trains run briefly on existing tracks for a few kilometres before entering the high speed line again. At Barendrecht the two tracks cross each other and the trains begin left-hand running as in Belgium, France and the UK. From here the line runs next to the existing railway as well as the Betuweroute, continuing through the Hoekse Waard area, bypassing Dordrecht. South of Dordrecht, the line runs next to the A16 motorway with a branch spurring off to the city of Breda. South of Breda, the line again follows the motorway towards Antwerp in northern Belgium.
The new line will greatly improve journey times for international and domestic services.
- Amsterdam-Rotterdam 0:37 (currently 0:58)
- Amsterdam-Breda 0:59 (currently 1:44)
- Amsterdam-Antwerp 1:10 (currently 2:09)
- Amsterdam-Brussels 1:44 (currently 2:51)
- Amsterdam-Paris 3:04 (currently 4:09)
- The Hague-Brussels 1:44 (currently 2:17)
- Breda-Brussels 0:59 (currently 1:56)
HSA has announced that off-peak prices will be very competitive with those of the conventional train; however peak hour travel by high-speed train will be more expensive, with a reported 60% fare increase over regular trains. There has been discussion about lowering the fee the HSA has to pay for use of the line, in exchange for a lowering of peak fares to 25% over regular trains, but the government has rejected this. Dutch Rail passes will not be valid on the Thalys or on the shuttle trains.
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