Many towns in the Netherlands are connected to the railway system. However, train travel to Wageningen ends at Ede-Wageningen, a station shared between Ede and Wageningen. An often heard question is: Why is there no train station in Wageningen itself?
In the seventeenth century, the road between Rhenen and Wageningen was the only way that made travelling from east to west in the region possible. As a result many travellers passed through Wageningen.
As time passed the Netherlands continued to develop and the demand arose for a better connection between the two bigger cities of Utrecht and Arnhem. In 1822 a national highway was built to fulfil this purposed. This was soon followed by the first Dutch railway to be built outside the western urbanised area, in 1845.
The railway however, did not go through Wageningen, but through Ede. It is said that the Minister of Defence of that time did not want the railway line to cross the fortifications of the ‘Grebbelinie’, a line of trenches between Wageningen and Rhenen. In addition, Wageningen town council did not seem to realise what the lack of a train connection would mean for the development of the town.
With the train station located in Ede, travelling from Ede to Wageningen was by coach. In 1882, a horse-drawn tram replaced the uncomfortable coach. After a few years it became a steam tram. The tram, named Bello, transported passengers and goods from Ede to Wageningen, via Bennekom. In the centre of Bennekom there is a statue of a man waiting at a stop in memory of the tram.
Besides the route to Ede, there was another tramline from Rhenen to Arnhem, with a stop in Wageningen. But with the arrival of cars and petrol, all trams started to lose ground. In 1937, Bello stopped transporting people. Other tram services soon followed and were replaced by buses. Bello continued its goods transport till 1968.
Nowadays, bus is still the way to travel from Wageningen to Ede, Rhenen or Arnhem, and the bus station is still in the same place. Despite many years of complaints from many different people, there is still no train station in Wageningen. High costs, the sensitive location of Wageningen – Grebbelinie and nature reserves – not enough passengers to make it profitable, and no railway network to which it could easily be connected have been the reasons cited for not building a train station in Wageningen.
For a while, the province considered introducing a light-rail, a vehicle somewhere between a train and a tram. However, this plan did not survive. Now the plan is to improve the bus services. Next year, a frequent express service will run between the bus station in Wageningen and Ede-Wageningen train station. The positive side is the environmental attractiveness of the new buses – they will be driving on gas.
The historical information comes from A brief history of Wageningen through the windows of Hotel de Wereld by Leo Klep. 2004, Futura Publishers.