Regional rail line Greifswald – Świnoujście

This regional line from Greifswald to Świnoujście, on the island of Usedom is part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction, on new rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The island of Usedom was developed since the 19th century for Baltic coastal tourism. It has its own railway, starting at Züssow, a rural junction on the Berlin – Stralsund line. From this rural junction station, the Usedomer Bäderbahn runs to Wolgast. The line crosses a single-track bridge onto the island, and then turns south-east along the Baltic coast, terminating at Świnoujście.

Usedom: map by Alexrk2 under CC3.0 licence

The proposal is to link an existing freight line east of Greifswald, to the Usedom island railway at Wolgast. That would connect the island to the regional centre of Greifswald (population 54 000), bypassing the junction at Züssow.

The proposed high-speed rail line Neubrandenburg – Stralsund would create a new route from Berlin, joining the Berlin – Stralsund line at Greifswald. In that case, fast trains would no longer pass through Züssow – but even without that line, a Greifswald – Usedom line is a logical project.

HSL Neubrandenburg – Stralsund…

High-speed line Neubrandenburg - Greifswald along A20.

On Usedom, the island railway ends at Świnoujście Centrum. Despite its name, this station is on the outskirts of Świnoujście, a small port at the mouth of the Oder. The town (population 40 000) was formerly German (Swinemünde). Although the Oder forms the post-war boundary between Germany and Poland, the western side of Swinemünde was also transferred to Poland, to keep the river mouth in Polish territory. Until 2008, the Usedom line ended at the border. When Poland joined the Schengen zone, it was extended 1500 m closer to the town centre.

The original railway geography was different. The fastest route from Berlin to Usedom was via Ducherow, south of Züssow. Trains turned east there, running directly to Swinemünde. They then turned north along the coast, terminating opposite Wolgast. There was originally no bridge there, passengers used a ferry.

Railway lines onto Usdeom: map by Maximilian Dörrbecker under CC3.0 licence

The lines into Świnoujście were cut by the post-war border, and the alignment inside the town was built over. The line from Ducherow and its bridge at Karnin were abandoned. Restoration of a through line Ducherow – Świnoujście – Züssow is not logical, because that route turns back on itself. A through line Greifswald – Świnoujście is far more logical, and requires minimal new infrastructure.

Alignment Greifswald – Świnoujście

The new line would run through a thinly-populated rural region (Amt Lubmin, population density 54 / km2). The freight line east of Greifswald was built in the 1960’s, to serve the Greifswald nuclear power station at Lubmin, one of two nuclear power plants in the GDR. The station was closed in 1990, but the site is still in use for decommissioning, and storage of nuclear waste.

The freight line turns off the main line at Schönwalde, 5 km from Greifswald station. 8 km from the junction, there would be a new station at the village of Kemnitz (population 1100). Just after this station, a new alignment would diverge, turning east.

New rail cutoff line east of Greifswald, toward Wolgast and Usedom.

The new line (15 km) would run at the foot of higher ground, with a maximum elevation of only 25 m. It would have two intermediate halts, at Neu Boltenhagen and at Katzow. These are small villages, and each station would serve only 650 people. (Recreational use in summer is the primary justification for the new line).

The new line would rejoin the existing line Züssow – Wolgast, about 2 km from Wolgast station. The Usedom line has already been substantially upgraded, and since this is an isolated line, the route would not necessarily be electrified. Additional passing places are probably required, for more intensive services. At Wolgast, the only town on the route, the line crosses the Peene channel on a new road/rail bridge.

Road-rail bridge at Wolgast: by RaBoe/Wikipedia under CC3.0 licence

On the island there is a junction with the 13-km branch to Peenemünde, at Zinnowitz, 40 km from Greifswald via the new line. With a new curve at Trassenheide, that branch could carry a separate service Züssow – Wolgast – Peenemünde.

From Zinnowitz, is it 33 km to Świnoujście. The total length of the Greifswald – Świnoujście route would be 72-73 km. That includes a reversal into Heringsdorf station, so a short section is double-counted. With a new avoiding curve at Ahlbeck, bypassing Heringsdorf station, the line would be 70-71 km long. However, Heringsdorf is the largest of the coastal resort villages, so it may be more logical to serve it.

The present journey time is over two hours by direct trains, longer with a change at Züssow. The new line would shorten the route by about 10%, and with a line speed speed of 150 km/h, trains to Wolgast would run faster. Journey time can certainly be reduced. However, on the island itself there are stops every 2-3 km – comparable to an S-Bahn line. Electrification of the line would allow faster service there – but it is not a precondition for the proposed cutoff line.

Regional rail line Greifswald – Świnoujście

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