GERMAN Rail (DB) subsidiary Start has won the tender for direct cross-border services between Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Hamm, Germany. The contract, which will connect the Ruhr districts with major cities including Düsseldorf, has an expected volume of 2.7 million train-km per year.

The tender covers the RE13 Mass - Wupper Express line, which operates via the Kaldenkirchen - Venlo line. Regional public transport authorities Rhine-Ruhr Transport Association (VRR) and Westfalia-Lippe Local Transport (NWL) launched the tender in 2020, and while they are cooperating with the Dutch ministry of infrastructure, and the Dutch provinces of Noord - Brabant Limburg, the Dutch authorities are not partners in the contract.

One train per hour will operate based on a regular interval pattern. Expected delays to the delivery of rolling stock caused by the coronavirus pandemic have pushed the start date back from December 2024 until December 2025. The contract will expire in December 2039.

Passenger transport will take place based on the rules for international passenger transport by rail. The Netherlands has a regulated market and the Eindhoven - Venlo section is operated by Netherlands Railways (NS) under the core network concession 2015-2025, which provide it with exclusive rights to passenger transport by rail. The new Start service is effectively the current Hamm - Venlo operation with a westbound extension to Eindhoven.

The existing Hamm - Düsseldorf - Venlo Regional Express train services are operated by Keolis Deutschland using Stadler Flirt EMUs, which are only suitable for 15kV 16.7Hz ac electrification. The extension to Eindhoven requires rolling stock which is also suitable for 1.5kVv dc. Start plans to use new Stadler dual-voltage Flirt3 EMUs, the same as those already operating on two other Dutch - German cross border regional services.