Passenger services on the route were withdrawn in 1955, although Star has operated steam-hauled excursion trains on the route since 1995. Today the town has a population of around 32,000 inhabitants.
Under the agreement, Star will receive €1.5m to transfer the line to ProRail. The province of Groningen will invest €62.8m in the project, while the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure will contribute €5m.
The project will involve upgrading track for higher line speeds, the installation of signalling, construction of a station at Stadskanaal and modifications to the ProRail station at Veendam.
Works are expected to begin in 2022 with the aim of launching services in 2025. Around 1900 passengers a day are forecast to use Stadskanaal station, which will initially be served by half-hourly trains although higher frequencies are being considered.
Groningen – Veendam services will be extended to Stadskanaal and operated Arriva under its concession agreement with the provincial government.
The journey time between Groningen and Stadskanaal will be 41 minutes, although a faster service is being considered which would reduce journey times by seven minutes compared with the planned all-stations stopping service.
Star will continue to operate historic trains on the line and the timetable will allow sufficient capacity for steam operations, particularly on Sundays.
Passenger services on the 22km Zuidbroek – Veendam section of the route were reinstated in May 2011.
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