New rail infrastructure north of Berlin

The Eisenbahn- und Verkehrsgewerkschaft recently published proposals for rail services north of Berlin, in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. They are primarily proposals for a service pattern on existing lines, upgraded in some cases, with some re-opening of closed sections. The proposals here go further, and include a restructuring of the network, in the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin.

The railways of Prussia were strongly centered on Berlin. North of Berlin, population density was always relatively low. There were no coal fields or major industry: the radial lines to the coast ran through forest and farmland. Consequently, the tangential infrastructure is weak, and rural branch lines were often unconnected. After the Second World War, the region was divided between West and East Germany and Poland, cutting many lines. Each state concentrated investment on its own north-south infrastructure, neglecting most Prussian radial lines. German reunification did not lead to major investment in the region, and Polish-German rail links have a low priority in both countries.

In Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, most rural brach lines were closed. The surviving lines, and the secondary radial lines, have infrequent services, despite their proximity to Berlin. The region is also losing population, with extreme losses in some towns. (Schwedt lost a third of its population since the 1980’s, and became an example for urban population decline policy).

Apart from Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, there is is no major regional centre between Berlin and the Baltic coast. The DDR had a separate administrative unit here, the Bezirk Neubrandenburg with over 600 000 inhabitants. However, the small city of Neubrandenburg lost its function as administrative centre after reunification, and shrunk from 90 000 to 65 000 inhabitants. It is still the regional centre for about 350 000 people, and the network proposed here would make it the main rail junction between Berlin and the coast.

Despite the low density of population, the region is suitable for restoration, expansion and intensification of the rail network. Most towns and villages have, or had, a station. The landscape is characterised by low ridges and many lakes. At the edge of the Mecklenburg region, the relief can be a local obstacle, with ridges at over 100 m, and lakes at near sea level.

Relief Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: map by Ulamm under CC 3.0 licence.

There are no current plans for major rail infrastructure, north of the line Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Even the restoration of the radial lines in Berlin itself is incomplete, 20 years after reunification. There are some non-official proposals: Markus Gröbe proposed a high-speed route to Rostock and Stralsund. The Berlin – Hamburg line itself was upgraded as Ausbaustrecke, after the abandonment of the Transrapid maglev line along the A24 Autobahn.

The specific infrastructure proposals are described separately:

Most of the currently operating rail lines, in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, are affected by those proposals. A few branch lines, however, would remain much as they are at present.

New rail infrastructure north of Berlin

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