A regional rail line Ludwigslust – Hagenow – Lübeck requires no new alignment, only restoration and upgrading of existing lines. It is one of a series of proposals for new rail infrastructure in the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. The proposed route uses the Berlin – Hamburg line, a re-opened Hagenow – Ratzeburg line (49 km), and 20 km of existing line from Ratzeburg to Lübeck. (The proposal assumes electrification and upgrading of the entire Lüneburg – Ratzeburg – Lübeck line). Trains would start at Ludwigslust, 21 km from Hagenow on the Berlin line, giving a total route of 90 km.
The main Berlin – Hamburg line passes through Ludwigslust and Hagenow, and then turns toward the Elbe at Boizenburg. The whole line was upgraded when the Transrapid maglev line was cancelled, but it has insufficient capacity for both high-speed and regional services.
Berlin-Hamburger Bahn: map by NordNordWest under CC 3.0 licence…
As part of a new high-speed route Berlin – Hamburg, a high-speed line (HSL) along the A24 Autobahn, would double capacity. The connecting line through Ludwigslust, already upgraded for 230 km/h, would be four-tracked. That would allow more intensive regional and inter-regional services on the existing tracks.
A new regional rail line Schwerin – Hagenow – Lüneburg was proposed here earlier, also using the existing main Hamburg line. It is not a precondition for a Hagenow – Lübeck line, but it would improve connections at Hagenow.
Route and infrastructure
Ludwigslust is a secondary regional centre south of Schwerin, 170 km from Berlin. It is a logical terminus for regional services from the three cities of Hamburg, Schwerin, and Berlin, and a logical stop for inter-regional trains. The new regional service toward Lübeck, would first run via the Hamburg line to Hagenow-Land, a junction station outside of Hagenow itself.
Train would then turn west on the short branch line to Hagenow-Stadt station. This is the only surviving section of the old line to Ratzeburg, known as the Kaiserbahn. It was originally longer, extending to Bad Oldesloe, west of Lübeck. The division of Germany cut the line outside Zarrentin, and it was not reinstated after re-unification. Instead, the surviving passenger service Hagenow – Zarrentin was closed.
Kaiserbahn: map by NordNordWest under CC 3.0 licence…
The short section from Hagenow-Land to Hagenow-Stadt was later re-opened, and re-opening of the entire line to Ratzeburg has local support. Hagenow-Stadt is served by ODEG diesel trains to Ludwigslust, 13 per day in 2013: some continue to Neustrelitz. (It says a lot about the low service frequency in Germany, that a local diesel service can operate on the main Berlin – Hamburg line).
A new regional service to Lübeck would require a new grade-separated junction at Hagenow-Land. That would be combined with a new junction for the Berlin and Schwerin lines, replacing the simple triangular layout. The new underpass south of the station (on the L04 road), would probably be relocated, or replaced by an overbridge.
Hagenow Land: left to Schwerin, right to Berlin, image by J. Fruechtnicht under CC 3.0 licence…
Beyond Hagenow-Stadt, the alignment is still available: it was safeguarded from development by the Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The line goes under the A24 Autobahn, and passes through the built-up area of Wittenburg and Zarrentin, but otherwise it runs through forests and fields. Upgrading to double track is not a problem: the requirement for extra track depends on the frequency of service. The ‘A24 Neubaustrecke’ would pass north of Hagenow, and might run alongside the old line to Ratzeburg for several km, but that does not affect restoration of the line.
The line at Fredeburg, outside Ratzeburg: image by Matzematik under CC 3.0 licence…
Stations would be reopened at Wittenburg , Zarrentin, Hollenbek, Sterley and Schmilau. The other former halts serve very small villages. About 2 km south of Ratzeburg station, the old line joined the line from Lüneburg. Originally the two lines had separate tracks into Ratzeburg, but the new route would have double track. From Ratzeburg, trains would continue to Lübeck Hauptbahnhof, serving three intermediate stations: Pogeez, Lübeck Airport, and a campus station at the edge of Lübeck. This section would also need double track: an S-Bahn service is planned.
With 11-12 intermediate stations, partly on high-speed tracks, journey time for the whole Ludwigslust – Lübeck route should be about 80 minutes. An appropriate service frequency is every 30 minutes off-peak.