A “three-country train” connecting Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium is due to begin operating from the December timetable change.

The service will run once per hour per direction from Aachen, Germany, via the Dutch cities of Heerlen and Maastricht to the Belgian city of Liège. This will be an extension of the hourly Regional express service Arriva Nederland has operated since 2019 from Aachen to Maastricht under a concession granted by the Dutch province of Limburg and a contract with the Aachen regional public transport authority.

This will double the frequency of cross-border regional services between the Limburg area and Aachen alongside the Liège - Maastricht - Aachen service.

The announcement follows the signing of an agreement by the Belgian federal transport minister, Mr Georges Gilkinet, the secretary of state at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure, Mrs Vivianne Heijnen, and Mr Maarten van Gaans-Gijbels, responsible for public transport at the regional government of the Dutch province of Limburg.

The agreement outlines arrangements allowing the operators - Arriva Nederland, DB Regio and Belgian National Railways (SNCB) - to begin preparing for the start of operation.

The service will be operated using Arriva Nederland’s Stadler Flirt 3 EMUs, which can operate on the 1.5kV dc electrification in the Netherlands, the 3kV dc electrification in Belgium, and the 15kV 16.7Hz ac electrification in Germany. Arrangements have been made for onboard staff, who will come from both the Netherlands and Belgium, while various practical issues including fares and ticketing are still being resolved.

Arriva Nederland owns eight tri-voltage Flirt 3 EMUs, and had planned to begin operating the full service in 2018. However, the Belgian national rail safety authority refused to grant authorisation to operate in Belgium as the trains were not equipped with ETCS, despite a lack of ETCS on the Belgian section of the route.