The old DDR airport at Schönefeld, south of Berlin, had a station on the Berlin outer rail ring (BAR). It was well used by long-distance services – most of them used the ring anyway, to avoid West Berlin. The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (generally known as BBI) consists of the existing south runway, a new parallel runway further south, and a new terminal between the two runways. The new terminal will be 3 km further south, so a new rail line will be built through it, roughly parallel to the BAR.
The new line offers exactly the same connections to the rest of the network, as the old airport station – no new routes are created. For more on the airport rail infrastructure and the terminal station, see: Die Bahnanbindung des Flughafen BBI.
The official service proposals are set out in the ÖPNV-Konzept für Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg. When all connections are complete, there will be an airport express service via the Dresdner Bahn and the BAR. The existing S9 will also be extended to the new station. (The extension of U-Bahn line 7 has been abandoned). The planned hourly service to Potsdam is poor: trains would reverse at Golm, and enter Potsdam from the west. (The service is worse that its DDR equivalent, which used an interchange station on the BAR, at Pirschheide).
The proposal here is a completely new line (Neubaustrecke, NBS) from Potsdam to the airport. It would leave the existing alignment 4 km east of Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, and join the planned airport line, as it enters the airport zone. The line would be 28-30 km long, station to station. It could probably be built for a line speed of 200 km/h, making it officially a high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke).
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The line is intended to create a new tangential route south of Berlin, via the airport. It would connect the Hannover – Magdeburg – Potsdam line to the Berlin – Cottbus line, the Görlitzer Bahn. It is also intended to connect with a high-speed line, from the airport to Frankfurt (Oder) – the main route to Poland.
There would be no intermediate stations, but it would have a connection to the Dresdner Bahn. The proposal does not include S-Bahn service: the alignment avoids the built-up area. In any case, present development (mainly housing) does not justify a separate S-Bahn tangent, between Potsdam and the airport. It would be logical to link Teltow-Stadt to Griebnitzsee, with a new S-Bahn line through Stahnsdorf. A new purely tangential line might be useful further north – approximately on the line Zehlendorf – Lichterfelde – Lichtenrade – Buckow – Schöneweide. However, an S-Bahn is not appropriate for that route: a light metro is probably the best option.
Potsdam (population 155 000) is the largest city on the periphery of Berlin. It is a major regional transport interchange, although it has lost the long-distance rail services it had in the DDR. Potsdam Hauptbahnhof is about 500 m from the historic centre, across the Havel river. It was renovated and expanded in the 1990’s. The proposed line would require doubling of the existing main line toward Berlin. (That would be necessary anyway, for a reopening of the Potsdammer Stammbahn via Zehlendorf).
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The new alignment would begin east of Griebnitzsee station, crossing the line from Dessau. At this point it is alongside the deforested strip of land, which marks the former Berlin Wall (Mauerstreifen). The line would pass through the forested Parforceheide: this is a protected nature/recreational zone, so the line would require a tunnel (crossing the A115 Autobahn). The line would then pass south of Stahnsdorf, at the edge of the built-up area.
From Stahnsdorf, the line would run eastwards to Mahlow, generally across farmland. It must cross the line to Halle and Leipzig, the Anhalter Bahn. It would also cross the B101 highway, a container terminal and its approaches, a logistics zone between the road and railway, and the village of Grossbeeren. A tunnel is unavoidable here. Several alignments are possible: they would not substantially alter the total length of the line.
On the northern edge of Mahlow, the line can follow the bypass road (L76, B96). Here, the new line would cross the Dresdner Bahn.
The new line would then turn south-east, cross the BAR, and then join the airport line (under construction). The rest of the alignment is the same as the official planning, including the air-terminal station, and an eastern exit line. The planned western connection from the BAR to the terminal is not affected by the new line.
The new line could be used by the future airport express. That requires a simple east-to-north curve connecting to the Dresdner Bahn, north of Mahlow. That curve could also be used by long-distance services from the airport into Berlin Hauptbahnhof (via Berlin Südkreuz). In both these cases, the new line would simply substitute for the official planned route (via the BAR to Blankenfelde).
The journey time airport – Potsdam should be about 14 minutes – much faster than any existing or planned service on this axis. The new link would facilitate use of the line to Magdeburg as an Intercity route. Routing some trains on the Dessau line via Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, would also make more sense, if they offered connections to the airport. The new line would also carry fast regional services, for instance from Brandenburg. However, the fullest benefits would come with new lines eastwards from the airport, and northward from Potsdam: more on that later.