These improvements to the rail infrastructure on the Island of Rügen are part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction, on new rail infrastructure north of Berlin.
Rügen is an island opposite the Baltic port of Stralsund (population 58 000). The city is linked to the island by a bridge and causeway, and is the main urban centre for the island. The largest settlement on the island itself is Bergen, with 14 000 inhabitants. Rügen has a total of 77 000 inhabitants.
Rügen: map by by Devil m25 under CC 2.0 licence…
The island is a major tourist destination, and its railways were built to bring tourists from the south. Rügen still has direct Intercity services, with an ICE to München and a Eurocity to Prague, but they are seasonal. Some have only one train per week. All serve Stralsund Hauptbahnhof, in most cases reversing there. There is an hourly regional service from Stralsund to Bergen.
The proposed high-speed lines (HSL) from Rostock to Stralsund and from Lübeck to Rostock would re-align services into Stralsund. Rügen is a logical terminus for these new services, which would not need to reverse at Stralsund. Services from Berlin via the proposed HSL through Neubrandenburg would terminate at Stralsund. The lines on Rügen itself can be upgraded to offer better connecting services.
Rügen has a double track electrified ‘main line’, from Stralsund to Bergen. It splits at Lietzow, beyond Bergen, into two single-track branches, also electrified. That is a lot for an island of that size, and tourism is not the only reason: under the DDR, the train ferry port at Mukran was built as a strategic link to the Soviet Union. It is still a major ferry port, with one passenger train service: the Berlin Night Express to Malmö, three times a week in summer.
Railways of Rügen: map by NordNordWest under CC 3.0 licence…
Sassnitz and Binz are both 51 km from Stralsund. Sassnitz has an hourly regional service from Stralsund, starting in Rostock. Binz has a two-hourly local service from Stralsund, and all the Intercity services terminate there. (Binz is in the southeastern corner of the island, where the main resorts are located).
There is also a non-electric 12-km branch, from Bergen to Putbus. It connects there with a narrow-gauge railway, the Rügensche Kleinbahn, a remnant of a larger system. Although it is part of the public transport network, it is a 750mm gauge steam railway, and extremely slow. With two changes of train, it takes 2h 19 minutes to get from Stralsund to the furthest village, Göhren (53 km by road).
Binz around 1900, public domain…
New bridge or tunnel
Any improvement to the rail lines on Rügen starts with the causeway and bridge from Stralsund, over the Strelasund. There are two channels, separated by the small island Dänholm. The shipping channel, with lifting bridge, is on the Stralsund side of Dänholm. There is insufficient space, for a tunnel to drop under the shipping channel, and then climb to the surface on Dänholm. Any tunnel would therefore cross both channels, and would be at least 5 km long, approximately following the existing rail alignment.
The old road/rail bridge, and new road bridge: image by Klugschnacker under CC 3.0 licence…
The best alternative for a tunnel is a new double-track lifting bridge, higher than the present version. The extra clearance would allow a reduction of the bridge opening times, since smaller boats can pass under it – although it could not match the 42m clearance of the new road bridge. Rügendamm Station would close, and east of Dänholm, the rail line on the causeway would be doubled.
The line speed on the island is relatively low. The regional trains take 51 minutes for the journey to Stralsund, with 9 intermediate stations. The Intercity trains from Binz stop only at Bergen, but still take 47-48 minutes. There are many curves which could be improved: except at Samtens, they are in open country. With moderate improvements, a journey time of under 45 minutes should be possible for the regional trains, and 35-40 for fast trains.
The east side of Rügen has three rail terminals, but no line along the coast. They could be linked by a new alignment between Sassnitz and Prora, which would also give the ferry terminal a regular passenger service.
The new line would diverge from the Binz branch, where it reaches the coast, and turn north via Neu-Mukran. It would cross the ferry port on viaduct, close to the passenger terminal and the ferry ramps. That requires a station on viaduct, but this is the easiest place to cross the port. (Further inland is a broad strip with freight yards and some industry).
To reach Sassnitz, the new line can turn inland and follow the road. At the business park at the edge of Sassnitz, it would turn 90 degrees, to join the existing line 1600 m outside the terminal station. This alignment allows a climb to the higher ground near the station – Sassnitz is built at the edge of the cliffs.
Alternatively, the line could run along the coast, and enter a tunnel behind the cliffs south of Sassnitz. The tunnel could continue to the former harbor station (shown in orange), or climb to the existing line into the main station (yellow). In both cases, the single-track tunnel would be about 2000 m long, and the new alignment about 6 km.
The new alignment would allow a shuttle service Binz – Prora – ferry port – Sassnitz. That is a 15-km route, with 3 intermediate stops. The branch to Binz would be doubled from the junction at Lietzow, also facilitating more inter-regional (Intercity) trains.
Extension south from Binz
The south-east corner of Rügen is served only by the narrow-gauge Rügensche Kleinbahn. It has its own station in Binz, which is not connected to the mainline station. The line continues over the Granitz ridge south of Binz, winding around Jagdschloss Granitz, and descends toward Sellin, ending at Göhren.
The alignment of the Rügensche Kleinbahn, south of Binz, could be converted to a metre-gauge tram line, and extended to the mainline station there. To shorten the route, a new tunnel (1700 m) would replace the line over the ridge at Granitz. The rest of the line, most of it alongside roads on level ground, is suitable for tram conversion.
Tram tunnel under the Granitz ridge…
Alternatively, a longer rail tunnel could carry an extension of the Binz branch. The 10-km extension would be for regional trains only: the long-distance services would still terminate at Binz station. The extension would require an underground platform at that station, connecting to a singel-track tunnel under Binz and the Granitz ridge. South of the ridge, the line would use the alignment of the Rügensche Kleinbahn through Sellin to Baabe, with some adjustments. The tunnel would be about 4 km long.
Both of these options mean the end of the Rügensche Kleinbahn, south of Binz. However, the Binz – Lauterbach section could still operate, as a museum line.
Service frequencies on all new and improved lines would be higher than at present – at least every 30 minutes. The existing service pattern would be generally retained. A regional service would link Stralsund to Sassnitz, possibly starting at Barth. Fast inter-regional services would run through Rostock to Stralsund, Bergen and Binz, and there would be a connecting regional service Bergen – Binz. The coastal shuttle service (Sassnitz to Binz or Baabe), could operate independently of the other services, every 30 minutes, and more often in summer.