Fast rail line between Schwerin and Wismar

This fast Schwerin – Wismar rail route is part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction: New rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The route would include upgraded existing lines, and some new alignments. It would connect to the proposed Lübeck – Rostock high-speed line (HSL), and has little logic without that line.

High-speed rail route from Schwerin toward Rostock.

Together, the two lines create a new high-speed route Schwerin – Rostock, shorter than the existing line via Bad Kleinen and Bützow. That would also form part of a longer high-speed route: Hamburg – Schwerin – Rostock – Stralsund, in combination with the proposed Rostock – Stralsund HSL.

Primarily, the upgraded line would link Schwerin and Rostock. With an alternative Lübeck – Rostock alignment south of Wismar, that would be more obvious. Nevertheless, the line would also be the logical route, for any high-speed trains from Berlin to Wismar via Schwerin.

Alignment

The existing rail line Schwerin – Wismar is 32 km long, and relatively direct. For historical reasons there is a railway junction at Bad Kleinen (population 3700), with the single-track line from Lübeck, and the line to Rostock.

The large junction station at Bad Kleinen, image by Bk1086 under CC 3.0 licence

Schwerin (population 95 000), is built around several small lakes, west of the larger Schweriner See. The rail line from the south curves to avoid the lakes, and then passes through the city centre, where the alignment is often confined between buildings. Upgrading of the line in the centre is not considered further here.

North of the main station, the alignment has more room for expansion and upgrading. A new alignment around Bad Kleinen would begun near Lübstorf station, and run on higher group west of Bad Kleinen. (This new line can also have a branch toward Grevesmühlen, for a high-speed route to Lübeck).

Bypass Bad Kleinen, on fast rail route from Schwerin toward Wismar and Rostock.

The new section could rejoin the existing alignment at Petersdorf station (which is in fact nearer to Moidentin). The alignment beyond this point depends on the alignment of the Lübeck – Rostock HSL. The version initially proposed would run at the edge of Wismar city centre, via a tunnel from the south-west. It would have a new station, at the road viaduct over the railway (Dr.-Leber-Strasse / Rostocker Strasse).

In that case, the logical option is an additional south-to-east viaduct with platforms, at that new station. Trains from Schwerin would then use the same exit line towards Rostock, as trains from Lübeck. To reach the new station, the line between Petersdorf and Wismar would be doubled and upgraded.

A central Wismar HSL alignment…

HSL Lübeck - Rostock with new alignment in tunnel through Wismar.

On the other hand, if the Lübeck – Rostock HSL runs south of Wismar, a new curve is needed, northeast from Petersdorf. It would turn toward the Autobahn A20, and then cross it to join the HSL bypass of Wismar. This option is shown in purple, on the overview map. In this case, only some fast trains would serve Wismar, terminating there. The existing line from Petersdorf into Wismar would be doubled and upgraded.

Doubling and some upgrading of the Schwerin – Wismar line, would be justified in itself, for more intensive regional services. However, upgrading for high speeds, on a 32-km line, would not be justified solely to serve Wismar. The proposal is essentially a bypass of Bad Kleinen, with a link to a high-speed line toward Rostock. As part of a wider regional network of high-speed lines, this would make sense. Regional trains from Wismar could run via Schwerin to Ludwigslust or Hagenow, or on a new route to Lüneburg.

Fast rail line between Schwerin and Wismar

High-speed rail bypass of Wismar

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

This is not a proposal for a separate line, it is an alternative route for the earlier proposed Lübeck – Rostock HSL, without a station in Wismar. Because it bypasses Wismar, an alignment along the Autobahn A20 is an option for this variant. The connection from Schwerin would also be easier, following the existing line through Bad Kleinen.

A fast Wismar – Rostock service would still be possible, with a relatively short connecting line from Wismar to the A20. Trains from Lübeck could use the HSL and enter Wismar from the south, although the route is less direct. The main disadvantage is that Wismar would have no through fast services.

As described earlier, the line from Lübeck Hauptbahnhof to Grevesmühlen would be upgraded as Ausbaustrecke, with some new sections. From Grevesmühlen, a new section would run east, to join the A20 near Barnekow. It would cross a lake, and avoid some ridges, with local elevation differences of about 40 m.

High-speed rail line Lübeck - Rostock, Grevesmühlen - Wismar.

South of Wismar, the HSL could be built alongside the Autobahn, but the curved alignment would limit speeds. The new line might have a separate alignment between Barnekow and Kreuz Wismar (shown in orange), and possibly between the junction and Nevern. (A completely separate alignment to Rostock, entirely north of the A20, is also possible).

The new line from Lübeck would have a west-to-north curve (shown in blue), onto the existing Schwerin – Wismar line. A new exit line, toward Rostock (in green), would run from the outskirts of Wismar – passing around Dargetzow to join the A20 alignment near Kreuz Wismar.

High-speed rail line Lübeck - Rostock, passing south of Wismar along A20.

There would also be a connection from the Schwerin direction onto the new line (in purple), for fast Schwerin – Rostock trains. It could follow the existing line through Bad Kleinen, or it might bypass that junction.

East of Nevern, the HSL could follow the A20 to Heiligenhagen, and then turn away toward Rostock. The junction with the existing single-track line from Wismar would be east of its crossing with the B103. The alignment inside Rostock needs upgrading, as mentioned earlier.

The new line would be approximately 115 km long, from Lübeck to Rostock. With a separate rail alignment Wismar – Rostock – not along the A20 – it would be slightly shorter. Length is not the main factor in the choice of Lübeck – Rostock alignments. An alignment along the A20 might be shorter if it avoided central Wismar – but that advantage might be lost, by following the curves of the Autobahn. More important is that a bypass of Wismar is easier to build, than a central-area tunnel.

High-speed rail bypass of Wismar

High-speed rail line Neubrandenburg – Stralsund

This Neubrandenburg – Greifswald – Stralsund 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.

A line to Stralsund is a logical extension of the HSL to Neubrandenburg, part of a proposed HSL route to Rostock. It would shift the main route to Greifswald and Stralsund – rerouting it through Neubrandenburg, to maximise connections.

High-speed line Neubrandenburg - Greifswald along A20.

At present there is one route serving both Greifswald and Stralsund, the line via Prenzlau. This is the Stralsund branch of the former Berlin-Stettiner Eisenbahn. The whole line is double-track and electrified. The alternative route to Stralsund is the original route of the Berliner Nordbahn, to Neubrandenburg via Oranienburg, and then the single-track section via Demmin.

A direct line Neubrandenburg – Greifswald, partly along the A20 Autobahn, was proposed earlier by Markus Gröbe. In that version, however, Berlin – Rostock trains would not be rerouted through Neubrandenburg. The alignment proposed here is almost identical: any new line to Greifswald would probably follow the A20.

Fast trains to Greifswald would use the existing line out of Neubrandenburg, doubled and upgraded. The new alignment would diverge about 9 km north of Neubrandenburg, and turn toward the A20. From near junction 30, the new line would run alongside the Autobahn, for about 22-25 km.

HSL on new alignment, Neubrandenburg to Autobahn A20.

Near Jarmen, the alignment of the Autobahn is curved, so the HSL could diverge even before junction 28. From there it would turn toward the existing main line Prenzlau – Greifswald, joining it about 4-5 km from the station. The shortest possible alignment would run in straight line, passing east of Jarmen, to the edge of the built-up area of Greifswald. The new line would be about 63-65 km long, from station to station, with about 13-15 km of that on upgraded existing line.

HSL to Stralsund, between Autobahn A20 and Greifswald.

North of Greifswald, the existing line is almost straight, the terrain is almost level, and the line can be easily upgraded. Very high speeds are unnecessary, since it is only 31 km to Stralsund.

Greifswald (population 54 000), and Stralsund (population 58 000) are the regional centres (Oberzentrum) for about 350 000 people, in the north-east corner of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. (The central function is split between the two, normally it would be one larger city at that level). Via the new route, Greifswald would be about 195 km from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and Stralsund 225 km. Journey time Berlin – Stralsund should be under 90 minutes.

At Stralsund, the high-speed corridor would connect with the line to the island of Rügen. Under the DDR, that line was upgraded as access to a new ferry port (Sassnitz-Mukran), for traffic to the Soviet Union. The port is still a ferry terminal for Baltic services, but passenger traffic to Rügen is primarily for tourism. For that reason, some trains from Berlin could reverse onto the Rügen line, as at present. Geographically, however, Sassnitz is a logical terminal for an east-west high-speed corridor through Rostock and Stralsund: more on that later.

High-speed rail line Neubrandenburg – Stralsund

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

High-speed line BBI – Frankfurt (Oder)

This proposed high-speed rail line (HSL) would connect the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (known as BBI), to the main Berlin – Warsaw line. It would join that line near Erkner, and run alongside it to Frankfurt, on the Oder river. It is an extension of the proposed new line from Potsdam to the airport. Since the idea is evident from a map, this line has probably been proposed before, but apparently never at official level.

Click to enlarge…

High-speed rail line BBI airport to Frankfurt (Oder)

The official plans for the new airport do include a new link eastward, but only to the Berlin – Cottbus line, the Görlitzer Bahn. In fact, part of this alignment exists already, as a freight siding into the existing airport. The Görlitzer Bahn is 7 km from the airport terminal.

Click to enlarge: the planned eastern exit line for the airport terminal, under construction.

The eastern airport line is primarily intended for long-distance trains, which make a diversion to serve the airport (the S-Bahn will not use this section). The diversion is inevitable, because the airport is not on a radial line. For instance trains to Dresden would exit Berlin to the south-east, via Karlshorst, turn south-west through the airport, and then south over the Dresdner Bahn. Conversely, the Görlitzer Bahn to Cottbus would be reached from the Dresdner Bahn, via the airport.

Apart from these trains, the utility of the airport line is limited, because it is not on a through route. Eastwards, it only connects to the Görlitzer Bahn. The proposed HSL would make it part of a longer through route, connecting it to a European HSL axis. The next station to the east would be Frankfurt (Oder), 74-75 km from the airport station.

The HSL would start from the airport exit line, either at the edge of the terminal zone, or just before its junction with the Görlitzer Bahn. The HSL would cross the Görlitzer Bahn, in forest south of the built-up area. It would join the alignment of the existing Frankfurt line south of Erkner. This is also beyond the built-up area (Erkner is the terminus of S-Bahn line S3).

The terrain is not a problem, elevation ranges from 30m to 45m. However, the line would cross the lakes and forests of the Regionalpark Müggel-Spree. This is the largest recreational zone on the eastern side of Berlin, and it was annexed to Berlin in 1920, partly because of this. The rail line would cross a shallow lake on the Dahme river (Langer See), about 1 km north of the village of Schmöckwitz, and pass close to another lake (Seddinsee)

Click to enlarge: the lake cluster around Schmöckwitz, with Berlin in the background. The HSL would run left to right, at about two-thirds of the image height. Image by Matthias Renner under Creative Commons 3.0 licence.

Schmöckwitz

A tunnel is the only option here, possibly with short surface sections. The lakes are glacial features, and the whole area is part of the Berlin meltwater channel. The geology would determine the alignment of tunnels here, so no exact alignment is given for the HSL. The section from the airport to the junction with the Frankfurt line would be about 20 km long. Of that, about 10 km passes through the protected zone.

The line would surface after crossing the Spree, south of Erkner. The junction with the existing Frankfurt line would be close to the Berlin ring Autobahn, about 4 km beyond Erkner station. This is the Niederschlesisch-Märkische Eisenbahn, originally built to serve Silesia rather than Warsaw.

From the junction, the HSL can closely follow the existing line. It consists of straight sections, several kilometres long, with curves between them. Most of it runs through forest: the only large village is Fürstenwalde, but the alignment there is wide enough for extra tracks.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Berlin airport to the Oder river

At Frankfurt, the HSL could follow the existing approach into the station. From there, the existing alignment across the River Oder is curved, and unsuitable for high speed. A new alignment could follow the motorway, but the station would be at the edge of the built-up area, and there is a 70m drop to the river. A new alignment starting just outside the station might be possible, but it would require a bridge height of about 40 m, and a viaduct across the flood plain.

New crossing of the Oder at Frankfurt

The HSL east of Erkner could also be used by high-speed trains from central Berlin, using the east-west surface line through Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The main ICE and Intercity services at Berlin Hauptbahnhof use its north-south underground platforms. A connection to the proposed HSL would require upgrading of the existing route through Ostkreuz and Karlshorst. In any case, trains from Frankfurt could also reach Berlin Hauptbahnhof from the south, via the airport and the Dresdner Bahn.

High-speed line BBI – Frankfurt (Oder)

New line Potsdam – BBI

The old DDR airport at Schönefeld, south of Berlin, had a station on the Berlin outer rail ring (BAR). It was well used by long-distance services – most of them used the ring anyway, to avoid West Berlin. The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (generally known as BBI) consists of the existing south runway, a new parallel runway further south, and a new terminal between the two runways. The new terminal will be 3 km further south, so a new rail line will be built through it, roughly parallel to the BAR.

Click to enlarge: map from Wikimedia, by Maximilian Dörrbecker under Creative Commons 2.5 licence.

Planned airport Berlin Brandenburg

The new line offers exactly the same connections to the rest of the network, as the old airport station – no new routes are created. For more on the airport rail infrastructure and the terminal station, see: Die Bahnanbindung des Flughafen BBI.

The official service proposals are set out in the ÖPNV-Konzept für Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg. When all connections are complete, there will be an airport express service via the Dresdner Bahn and the BAR. The existing S9 will also be extended to the new station. (The extension of U-Bahn line 7 has been abandoned). The planned hourly service to Potsdam is poor: trains would reverse at Golm, and enter Potsdam from the west. (The service is worse that its DDR equivalent, which used an interchange station on the BAR, at Pirschheide).

The proposal here is a completely new line (Neubaustrecke, NBS) from Potsdam to the airport. It would leave the existing alignment 4 km east of Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, and join the planned airport line, as it enters the airport zone. The line would be 28-30 km long, station to station. It could probably be built for a line speed of 200 km/h, making it officially a high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke).

Click to enlarge…

HSL Potsdam - Berlin Brandenburg Airport

The line is intended to create a new tangential route south of Berlin, via the airport. It would connect the Hannover – Magdeburg – Potsdam line to the Berlin – Cottbus line, the Görlitzer Bahn. It is also intended to connect with a high-speed line, from the airport to Frankfurt (Oder) – the main route to Poland.

There would be no intermediate stations, but it would have a connection to the Dresdner Bahn. The proposal does not include S-Bahn service: the alignment avoids the built-up area. In any case, present development (mainly housing) does not justify a separate S-Bahn tangent, between Potsdam and the airport. It would be logical to link Teltow-Stadt to Griebnitzsee, with a new S-Bahn line through Stahnsdorf. A new purely tangential line might be useful further north – approximately on the line Zehlendorf – Lichterfelde – Lichtenrade – Buckow – Schöneweide. However, an S-Bahn is not appropriate for that route: a light metro is probably the best option.

Potsdam (population 155 000) is the largest city on the periphery of Berlin. It is a major regional transport interchange, although it has lost the long-distance rail services it had in the DDR. Potsdam Hauptbahnhof is about 500 m from the historic centre, across the Havel river. It was renovated and expanded in the 1990’s. The proposed line would require doubling of the existing main line toward Berlin. (That would be necessary anyway, for a reopening of the Potsdammer Stammbahn via Zehlendorf).

Click to enlarge…

The new alignment would begin east of Griebnitzsee station, crossing the line from Dessau. At this point it is alongside the deforested strip of land, which marks the former Berlin Wall (Mauerstreifen). The line would pass through the forested Parforceheide: this is a protected nature/recreational zone, so the line would require a tunnel (crossing the A115 Autobahn). The line would then pass south of Stahnsdorf, at the edge of the built-up area.

New rail line Potsdam - BBI

From Stahnsdorf, the line would run eastwards to Mahlow, generally across farmland. It must cross the line to Halle and Leipzig, the Anhalter Bahn. It would also cross the B101 highway, a container terminal and its approaches, a logistics zone between the road and railway, and the village of Grossbeeren. A tunnel is unavoidable here. Several alignments are possible: they would not substantially alter the total length of the line.

New rail line Potsdam - BBI

On the northern edge of Mahlow, the line can follow the bypass road (L76, B96). Here, the new line would cross the Dresdner Bahn.

The new line would then turn south-east, cross the BAR, and then join the airport line (under construction). The rest of the alignment is the same as the official planning, including the air-terminal station, and an eastern exit line. The planned western connection from the BAR to the terminal is not affected by the new line.

New rail line Potsdam - BBI

The new line could be used by the future airport express. That requires a simple east-to-north curve connecting to the Dresdner Bahn, north of Mahlow. That curve could also be used by long-distance services from the airport into Berlin Hauptbahnhof (via Berlin Südkreuz). In both these cases, the new line would simply substitute for the official planned route (via the BAR to Blankenfelde).

The journey time airport – Potsdam should be about 14 minutes – much faster than any existing or planned service on this axis. The new link would facilitate use of the line to Magdeburg as an Intercity route. Routing some trains on the Dessau line via Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, would also make more sense, if they offered connections to the airport. The new line would also carry fast regional services, for instance from Brandenburg. However, the fullest benefits would come with new lines eastwards from the airport, and northward from Potsdam: more on that later.

New line Potsdam – BBI