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NovaTerra Connected Cities / june 2006 / 4

Discovering Location of SRE in The Netherlands.

a neglected backyard
Eindhoven has always kept its eyes on Randstad Holland, content to
be a Dutch ‘brainport’. But in an era of open borders the region now
looks to Leuven (Belgium) and Aachen (Germany) for greater critical
mass to compete on a European scale. For too long Eindhoven has
ignored its ‘backyard’: the Belgian province of Limburg.

Berry de Jong, SRE, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Frank van der Hoeven, TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands + Connected Cities
Illustrations: Frank van der Hoeven (unless indicated otherwise)

The Eindhoven region (700,000 inhabitants) Forty per cent of private R&D investment in the eindhoven-leuven-aachen triangle
is a major high-technology cluster. This the Netherlands finds its way into the region. (elat)
position is recognised in Dutch economic, More recently, SRE has been working in the
innovation and planning policies with The 21 municipal councils in the Eindhoven Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Technology
designations like ‘Brainport Eindhoven’ and region collaborate in the Eindhoven Regional Triangle (ELAT) with Leuven and Aachen.
‘Top Technology Region’. The region is a Partnership (SRE) to promote their common Their proximity on a European scale gives the
‘technology and innovation hotspot’ with interests. The SRE coordinates local cities the additional mass they need to act as
strongly developed R&D activities. It has the government activities in the field of spatial a single region. The main goal of the ELAT
highest patent density in Europe and a top planning, traffic and transport, housing, the project is to develop and implement a joint
quality knowledge infrastructure. The environment, recreation and tourism, innovation strategy for the technology
leading regional clusters of mechatronics, education, health, culture and social and triangle, using ICT to tie in knowledge
automotive, medical and information economic policy. The purpose is to bring institutes, businesses and public authorities.
technology have prospered, while new about balanced development across the The strategy is to make the ELAT an
technologies such as embedded systems, region. But to compete on European and internationally recognised top region for
nanotechnology and life sciences are global levels the region needs to create technology and improve the economic
evolving alongside a dynamic cluster of economies of scale and scope. If Eindhoven climate. Transnational cooperation between
design, business development, education collaborates with other regions it can create Eindhoven, Leuven and Aachen means a
and creative industries. It is due to the a critical mass in research, development and larger knowledge base, a wider urban scale
Eindhoven region that Noord-Brabant is the innovation. and greater urban diversity. Because
only Dutch province to meet the EU goal of specialised companies in the knowledge
spending at least 3.0% of gross domestic economy need to cooperate to develop new
product (GDP) on research and development. products, services, techniques and concepts,

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NovaTerra Connected Cities / june 2006 / 5


ELAT placed between the Regions of Excellence taking part in the EU sponsored PAXIS ELAT (including Liège): the regional distribution of high-tech industry,
programme (Pilot Action of Excellence on Innovative Start-ups). knowledge institutes and major infrastructure.

The ELAT-project is still driven exclusively by

economic initiatives, but it raises questions
about the wider benefits of cross-border
direct contacts are needed for the exchange national borders hampered the development diamond shaped region includes the
of tacit knowledge. This network economy of these regions, now the open borders and Eindhoven area (SRE), the Leuven area
and acts more and more like an ecosystem new economics offer opportunities for the (eastern part of Flemish Brabant), the
and ELAT offers the opportunity for its economic growth and spatial development of Belgian province of Limburg, the Maastricht-
further development. Eindhoven, Leuven and Aachen. But renewed Aachen area and the Liège urban region.
regional growth will not automatically mould
The relatively young ELAT project is still these three regions into a single new urban There is even a historic precedent for
driven exclusively by economic initiatives, network. They need to strengthen their real- including Liège in such a scheme. Between
but it raises questions about the wider world ties as well. 1866 and the Second World War a direct rail
benefits of cross-border development. The link between Eindhoven and Liège did exist,
regions of Eindhoven, Aachen and Leuven connected cities providing direct connections between
have always looked away from each other. Making these physical links is the aim of the Amsterdam and Liège three times a day.
The Eindhoven region has strong economic Connected Cities project launched by the It was shut down gradually during the
relations with the nearby Dutch city regions SRE. The idea is to create a sustainable second half of the century. Although the rails
of Tilburg, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Breda, and connection between Eindhoven and Hasselt, have gone, the routes are still there. Recently
with the Randstad (Amsterdam, The Hague, the capital of the Belgian province of they have re-emerged as key components in
Utrecht and Rotterdam). The Aachen region Limburg. Hasselt lies in the very heart of the Spartacus plan by the Belgian transport
traditionally looks to the Rhine-Ruhr area, Eindhoven-Leuven-Aachen Triangle and authority De Lijn, an ambitious new plan to
and the Leuven region has links with the could become an important public transport improve the quality of public transport in the
Flemish Diamond (Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent). hub connecting these cities. Liège cannot be province of Limburg. Y
Their traditional ‘backyard’ is relatively excluded from this transport network, as a
underdeveloped. Whereas in the past, the single look at the map confirms. The resulting

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NovaTerra Connected Cities / june 2006 / 6

The Spartacus regiotram lines extended into the

Eindhoven region an Noord-Limburg (Lommel).

Linking public transport

networks is just a small
first step, but it could be
a breakthrough in the
cross-border thinking that
Europe is all about

more than eight times as many. Hasselt

became a model for many other towns
throughout Belgium. The ‘free’ public
transport initiative was the brainchild of
Hasselt’s mayor Steve Stevaert, who went on
to become Flemish Minister of Mobility and
Spatial Planning and in 2005 regional
spartacus regional transport initiative network in Limburg. And it is no academic governor of Limburg. Public transport in
Like many other European regions Limburg exercise, or one of those mobility plans that Limburg clearly has solid political backing.
possesses a rudimentary rail network, which regions love to develop but fail to realise. In the case of Spartacus there is also a sense
provides connections to the cities of Antwerp, The Spartacus plan rests on solid ground: it is of urgency. The regional and national public
Brussels and Liège. These connections are explicitly mentioned in the Flemish coalition transport services in the province are in a
relatively slow and infrequent and make a agreement and the necessary funds have poor state and it is widely acknowledged
very modest contribution to the modal split. been secured. that something has to be done. It helps that
There are no connections with the Spartacus is not a mega project absorbing
neighbouring Dutch provinces Limburg and At first glance Limburg might seem an odd billions of euros, but requires a rather
Noord-Brabant (Maastricht, Eindhoven). place for innovations in public transport. modest investment in the infrastructure
The Belgian province of Limburg (800,000 of between 150 and 200 million euros.
In recent years De Lijn Limburg has pursued a inhabitants) lacks most of the ‘urban’ An additional 10 million euros per year are
successful strategy for attracting new characteristics experts would consider needed to operate the network.
passengers. They have made deals with the necessary for developing a successful public
local authorities in several towns and cities transport network. The urban area is very The Spartacus plan proposes a network of
to provide ‘free’ public transport for all their dispersed and densities rather low. But in improved rail links with the larger cities in
inhabitants or selected target groups. Local 1997 the regional capital Hasselt launched a Belgium, supported by regional light rail and
bus lines in particular have been used more unique experiment with ‘free’ public regional connections. Public transport hubs
intensively. But it has not stimulated the use transport. It resulted in a significant increase tie this network together. In essence,
of public transport over longer distances. in the use of local buses. Whereas in January Spartacus consists of four main components:
This is what the Spartacus plan sets out to 1997 only 32,000 passengers used the bus in 1 De Lijn plans to upgrade existing rail
achieve. It involves no less than a Limburg’s capital, in January 1998 the connections with Brussels, Antwerp, Liège
restructuring of the entire public transport number of passengers had risen to 269,000, and Leuven. Frequent and direct services

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High Tech Campus Eindhoven, in future serviced by

Spartacus? (source: High Tech Campus Eindhoven)

will eliminate the need to transfer and cut bridge the remaining half. The Connected between Limburg (the neglected
travel time significantly. Cities network organised several expert backyard) and the ELAT cities.
2 Spartacus proposes the introduction of meetings and workshops on this task, which 2 The scales of operation have to be
regional light rail, or regiotram. Most of generated a step-by-step approach that determined. Initial studies show that the
these regiotram connections use railway offers a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to travel time between Eindhoven and
lines that were closed during the second make an adequate response that bridges the Hasselt can be kept close to 60 minutes.
half of the twentieth century. Large gap. The SRE would have to determine with In that case the link can serve all
stretches of these routes are now used as De Lijn Limburg how the link between necessary scales: inter-regional, regional
cycle paths. The Limburg regional plan Eindhoven and Hasselt affects the position and intra-regional. Although this seems
identified such routes as lines that can be of the Noord Limburg public transport hub. contrary to generally accepted wisdom, in
converted back to rail with only relatively The advanced public transport system this case public transport services on all
light investment. Three regiotram lines developed for the Eindhoven region over the scales are lacking in this border area and
connecting Maastricht, Maasmechelen last ten years is not a regiotram, as in Belgian introducing one system will provide a
and Noord Limburg are proposed. The Limburg, but the Phileas Bus Rapid Transit significant improvement on all scales.
Noord Limburg line includes the option to system, which uses dedicated traffic lanes A link that bridges the distance between
reach into the Eindhoven region. and futuristic vehicles. Somehow these Eindhoven and Hasselt in 60 minutes will
3 Where passenger volume is modest, systems, regiotram and Phileas, have to be provide reduced travel times on long and
regional bus lines are proposed. knitted together. short journeys. It will improve the
Significant reductions in travel time are connection Eindhoven-Brussels, Hasselt-
foreseen. connecting elat Amsterdam, Eindhoven-Leuven, Eindhoven-
4 Finally, the Spartacus plan includes the All in all these are not easy questions to Hasselt, Eindhoven-Noord Limburg, and
development of a number of public answer. The steps to be taken in this process even Eindhoven-Valkenswaard.
transport hubs where all these systems are nevertheless straightforward: 3 The desirable and possible connections
meet and connect, including Hasselt, 1 SRE needs a vision that provides a context should be determined. Working with a
Genk, Maasmechelen and Noord Limburg. for the sustainable link between trunk line with branches offers a flexible
Eindhoven and Hasselt. The Eindhoven- solution that fits the Limburg context.
For the time being Spartacus will reach into Leuven-Aachen Triangle (Liège included) This trunk line runs straight from
Noord Limburg, covering more than half the can provide just that. The Eindhoven- Eindhoven to Hasselt, with as few detours
distance between Hasselt and Eindhoven. Hasselt link should be instrumental in as possible to keep travel time close to
The question is whether Eindhoven can strengthening the real world ties 60 minutes. The trunk can branch off in Y

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NovaTerra Connected Cities / june 2006 / 8

Masterplan for Lommel, set to accommodate

40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. (source: gemeente
Lommel, Belgium)

Somehow these
systems, regiotram
and Phileas,
have to be knitted
Stedelijke drager Zoekzone overslagactiviteiten
Woonkern Station
Woondorp Suggestie toplocatie kleinhandel
Woonpark Zone voor specifieke voorzieningen
Woonlint Gebied met overwegend natuurfunctie
Stedelijke open ruimte Grootschalig bos-, natuur- of heiecomplex
Te reserveren woonuitbreidingsgebied Toeristisch-recreatieve voorziening
Erkende woninggroep Toeristisch-recreatieve voorziening in groen kader
Te verwijderen woninggroep Zoekzone uitbreiding toeristisch-recreatieve voorziening
Te verdichten knooppunt / centrumgebied Beekvallei
Suggestie tot selectie van heide-heuvel als één woonkern Open ruimte-verbinding
Suggestie tot selectie als woonkern Natuurverbinding
Uit te rusten regionaal bedrijventerrein Bufferstrook
Bouwrijp bedrijventerrein Primaire weg I
Bestaande industriezone Secundaire weg II (suggestie)
KMO-zone (na gebruik te herbestemmen) Secundaire weg III (suggestie)
(Toekomstig) Zandontginning Tracé n769 in onderzoek
Reservegebied grootschalige stedelijke ontwikkeling Lokale weg I
Stedelijke boulevard Lokale weg II

Noord Limburg towards Lommel, a city focus on the possibility of these systems step towards a network that strengthens the
that is expanding to 40 – 50,000 sharing one and the same track between real world ties between Eindhoven, Aachen,
inhabitants. Eindhoven and Noord Limburg (Lommel). Leuven and Liège and their central backyard.
4 Locating the Noord Limburg transport Both regiotram and Phileas use guided Linking public transport networks is just a
hub and related urban development vehicles. If regiotram and Phileas can be small first step, but it could be a
requires careful consideration in combined, it would make ELAT the first breakthrough in the cross border thinking
weighing up the different alternatives. testing ground in the world for comparing that Europe is all about. Z
This will take some time. From the Bus Rapid Transit with Light Rail on a one
perspective of ELAT the capacity of the to one basis. The results may surprise us.
hub to provide space for the next
university, technology institute, research real world ties
campus or technology cluster should be Arriving from two rather different
examined. backgrounds, the Dutch region of Eindhoven
5 The overall routing of the line is in part and the Belgian province of Limburg are
pre-determined by the existing and past looking for ways to connect to each others
rail infrastructure. region’s by advanced public transport.
6 The final choice of system (regiotram or Establishing a sustainable link between
Phileas) is a tricky one. Further work could Eindhoven and Hasselt could become a first

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