Regional rail line Ludwigslust – Hagenow – Lübeck

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.

Berlin - Hamburg high-speed rail line along A24 Autobahn, bypassing Hagenow.

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.

New rail service Schwerin - Lüneburg.

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.

Regional rail line Ludwigslust – Hagenow – Lübeck

High-speed rail line Stralsund – Szczecin

This Stralsund – Szczecin high-speed rail line (HSL) is part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction: New rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The existing route Stralsund – Szczecin is via the junction station at Pasewalk, and the main new infrastructure is a northern bypass of that station. The bypass was proposed here earlier, as part of a Neubrandenburg – Szczecin HSL. It would connect upgraded lines east and west of Pasewalk.

Northern bypass of Pasewalk with HSL junction…

Northern bypss of Pasewalk for high-speed trains.

High-speed trains from Stralsund would use an additional curve onto the bypass. They would reach it via the existing Stralsund main line, already double-track and electrified. Upgrading from Stralsund to Greifswald was proposed here earlier, as part of a HSL Neubrandenburg – Stralsund. For high-speed services to Szczecin, the section Greifswald – Pasewalk would also be upgraded, as far as the bypass.

Trains on both high-speed routes would use an upgraded version of the existing line toward Szczecin, or possibly a parallel HSL. In both cases, the bypass would shorten the route, and avoid Pasewalk station.

Fast trains from Stralsund would stop at Greifswald: the other 20 intermediate stations would be served by regional trains. An extra stop at Anklam would contradict the aim of a fast service to Szczecin. Fast inter-regional services from Berlin, the successors to the current Regional-Express, could stop at both Anklam and Pasewalk.

High-speed rail line Stralsund – Szczecin

New rail infrastructure on Rügen

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.

Existing railways

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.

On Rügen

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.

Coastal line

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.

New link line Binz - Sassnitz via Mukran ferry port.

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…

Tram tunnel under Granitz ridge on Rügen

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.

Extension of the railway line from Binz to Sellin, on Rügen.

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.

New rail infrastructure on Rügen

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