Euregio Railcorridor

Zwolle - Twente - Münsterland, NL/D

How can a trainline contribute to a strong cross-border region?

The Euregio is located on the edge of ‘ABC’ (Amsterdam-Brussels-Cologne): the economic heart of the EU.

The Euregio is well connected to the North Sea – Baltic corridor, a part of the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) which uses international connections for cooperation and regional (economic) development (Euregio rail corridor in white).

“Overcoming borders” is what drives the EUREGIO, with its goal of one common city/country/region. Founded back in the day out of a realization that cross-border area development requires mutual trust and cooperation first and foremost, the Euregio is still setting its sights on bolstering the economy, society and sustainable spatial development.

The Zwolle – Twente – Münsterland region is strategically located in Northwest Europe: on the edge of the so-called ‘ABC area’. This offers opportunities – but capitalizing on them requires cross-border cooperation. At the same time, the region’s economic resilience and wider wellbeing are already under pressure. From the local to the international level, it must find ways to remain an attractive location, residential area and region where people want to be.

The main conclusions from the SWOT analysis

Three regions, one line
3.1 million people live in the Zwolle – Twente – Münster corridor. Not in metropolitan agglomerations, but mainly in medium-sized cities and throughout a vast, relatively densely populated rural area. Due to the natural and cultural-historical landscape, the area is popular with tourists and for recreation, and the economy is currently flourishing. All three sub-regions are characterized by a fairly self-reliant economy. There is plenty of potential here: educational opportunities at all levels, cutting-edge hospitals, and big companies active, for example, in medical technology and high-tech applications. Münster and Zwolle are comparable cities with a strong central function for a large surrounding area; Twente sees itself as a connecting region between them. Tying everything together is the railway connection.

The EUREGIO has been working on a strong cross-border region for decades and sees an important role for the Euregio railway corridor in the future. The spatial-economic profile that we have drawn up together with consultancy firm Public Result serves to map out the opportunities for structural reinforcement along this line. It aims not at technical rail improvements – which are however also necessary – but at a long-term ‘Euroregional Plus’ for entrepreneurs, residents, students, commuters and visitors.

To be able to interpret the Euregional added value of the railway, we carried out an analysis of the Euregio’s current functioning. We did this by means of a SWOT analysis of five themes: economy, comprehensive wellbeing, station areas, mobility and sustainability. An actor analysis was also carried out, looking specifically at networks. After all, networks are of vital importance for the development of spatial-economic structures. They are an indicator of cooperation and, in concrete terms, the vehicle through which coordination and meetings between governments, companies, and educational and research institutions take place.

All areas around the Euregio train stations within 5 minutes cycling distance.

The Euregio railway creates cooperation opportunities in promising niches
The analysis shows that there are common economic priorities, and that much can still be gained from cooperation (not only cross-border, but also in the province of Overijssel: while Zwolle focuses its gaze more westwards, towards the Randstad, Twente looks to the German hinterland). Although cooperation is currently lagging behind in the fields of spatial development and accessibility, the economic potential of the Euregio can be strengthened through better connections. And that requires good infrastructure.

The Euregiorail corridor

Change is inevitable
Although there are good supra-regional rail connections and many people can therefore use the train, sometimes from some distance, the Euregio is not well connected multimodally. Congestion threatens the roads; the public transport accessibility of the rural area is substandard; and the train connection linking Zwolle, Twente and Münster needs a qualitative impulse.

This is especially true when it comes to the longer term. Because, despite the fact that life is still good in the region – with peaceful living conditions in a nature- and culture-rich area just a train ride from some major cities, leading universities and international airports – connections between city and countryside are poor. And were the population of the small centres to shrink in the long term, the quality of life would quickly come under pressure. Forecasts indicate that there will also be significant labour-market shortages in the Euregio – because of the ageing of the population, but also because the region is not successful enough at retaining talent.

Euregiorail brings benefits further away from the track, too
Attractive, lively cities with high-level culture and facilities are important in winning the battle for talent against the metropolitan agglomerations. At the same time, good city-country connections are needed to prevent rural exodus and so allow the region to continue to offer a rich range of vibrant living environments.

In our view, upgrading the Zwolle – Twente – Münster rail link with through trains could lead to an important connecting axis for exchange and for joint, sustainable and inclusive growth, and thus the strengthening of comprehensive wellbeing. This is the ‘Euroregional Plus’ created by Euregiorail.

Four different scenarios for the development of the Euregio rail corridor. Depending on the level of ambition in each sub-region (vertical axis) and the degree of network coordination and investment capacity (horizontal axis), this varies from a through connection with good basic facilities (bottom left), to a well-connected train network, including intercity connections to other significant cities. This serves to create an excellent living, working and learning environment (top right).

Building a strong Euregio from a shared base
Working on the Euregional Plus for both urban and rural areas calls for (more intensive) cooperation. We have put together a rich variety of building blocks based on the five research themes (economy, comprehensive wellbeing, station areas, mobility and sustainability). These building blocks are diverse in nature and impact and encourage a quick start. Each of the sub-regions can connect with its own ambitions, timelines and starting points, but by appointing interfaces with other themes for each building block, the importance of integrality and (therefore) cooperation always comes to the fore.

A catalyst for future developments
Different development directions are conceivable, depending on the level of ambition and the degree of network coordination and investment capacity in and among the three regions. As an exercise to shed light on the choices to be made, we have developed four scenarios. Like recombining building blocks, the scenarios show what’s on the horizon for each region if the opportunities are exploited.

In all the regions, the Euregio rail corridor basically serves – regardless of the scenario – as an engine for connection. As a result, it can be easily used for exchange and cooperation and serves sustainable development and the perspective of broad prosperity. With more joint ambition, depending on the degree of network coordination, the Euregiorail can be used for area developments in railway zones and an inclusive, robust development – or even for the creation of excellent living environments and a vital ecosystem in which niches and innovations can flourish.

Euregio Railcorridor

The Zwolle – Twente – Münster corridor is strategically located on the edge of Europe’s economic heart. In the EUREGIO international partnership, this corridor is strung together by the railway line. Although things are still going well in the Euregion, better cooperation will have to take place to capitalize on the opportunities that exist in the areas of education, the labour market, economy and innovation, living environments and quality of life, mobility and sustainability. Because, in the long term, threats include population decline, congestion, the climate crisis, a diminishing range of facilities and losing the battle for talent. In order to remain an attractive location in the long term and to achieve sustainable and inclusive development, better connections are crucial. In this respect, the Euregio rail corridor can play an major role. With this well-connected line and all its stations – each with their own sphere of influence and development opportunities – the region has a golden opportunity. Depending on ambition, network coordination and investment capacity, different development directions are conceivable for each of the three sub-regions. But whether that means the far-reaching development of high-level innovation environments and economic niches, or a mere through rail connection with 24 stops, in every case the Euregiorail line is the connecting axis for exchange and the reinforcement of comprehensive wellbeing – the Euregional Plus.

details

Project
Euregio Railcorridor
Location
Zwolle - Twente - Münsterland, NL/D
Size
2 landen, 2 provincies / deelstaten – 3 deelregio’s – 134 km spoorlijn
Period
2022
Client
EUREGIO
Discipline
Urban Design
Program
Ruimtelijk-economisch profiel
Status
Completed
Partners
Public Result
More info
bd@dezwartehond.nl