New high-speed alignments between Berlin and Hamburg

These improvements to the high-speed rail line Berlin – Hamburg are part of a series of proposals, for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction, on new rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The 284-km Berlin-Hamburger Bahn runs north-west from Berlin to Hamburg. The shortest route would be along the bank of the river Elbe, but the line runs further north. It only approaches the river at Wittenberge and Boizenburg.

Berlin-Hamburger Bahn: map by NordNordWest under CC 3.0 licence

After German reunification, a complete new high-speed line (Neubaustrecke / Schnellfahrstrecke) was considered. So was a cut-off along the Elbe, between Boizenburg and Wittenberge, shortening the route by 6%. These projects were displaced by a proposed maglev line, which was then abandoned because of the cost. In the end, the existing alignment was upgraded for high speed (Ausbaustrecke).

That has the advantage, that the route to Schwerin also benefits. With the high-speed line Schwerin – Lübeck, proposed here earlier, the Schwerin branch would also be the main route Berlin – Lübeck.

The present double-track line carries high-speed trains at 230 km/h, regional trains, and freight trains. That works, because present service frequencies in Germany are low. New construction would shorten the route, avoid slower sections, and allow a more intensive service. (The planned London – Birmingham high speed line will carry trains every 3-5 minutes). Any increase in capacity must apply to the entire route: new sections of line imply extra tracks on the remaining sections.

Route options

A new line along the Elbe, from Wittenberge to Boizenburg, is still technically feasible. However, the Elbe banks are largely protected landscape (Naturpark), and now part of a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve. Part of the line could follow the disused Wittenberge – Lüneburg line, but beyond Dömitz, it would be on entirely new alignment. It would almost certainly conflict with the protected status of the zone, so that option is not considered further here.

The existing alignment could be shortened by a cutoff line between Neustadt (Dosse) and Karstädt, running north of Perleberg. This would be used by high-speed trains to both Hamburg and Schwerin.

Another new section could start near Hagenow, and follow the Autobahn A24 to the edge of Hamburg. This is primarily for Berlin – Hamburg traffic, but would also provide a faster line from Hamburg to Schwerin. Beyond Schwerin, it would connect to the proposed HSL to Rostock, creating a through Hamburg – Rostock route. The A24 alignment is only slightly shorter, but it would segregate high-speed traffic, and can be built for 300 km/h.

Between these two new sections the line through Ludwigslust would be four-tracked and upgraded for higher speed. Alternatively, a new line could be built alongside it, with a new tunnel through Ludwigslust station, or a new approach curve west of the station.

Alignments are not described in detail here. The new lines are intended for long-distance passenger traffic only. Regional and inter-regional trains would continue to serve interchange stations such as Wittenberge, Ludwigslust, and Hagenow-Land.

Upgrading, from Berlin

The lines to Hanover and Berlin split at Spandau, which is inside the built-up area of Berlin. The line between Spandau en Nauen, 35 km from central Berlin, would certainly need four tracks, since there are relatively intensive regional services. Alternatively, the stations could be served by a parallel S-Bahn line – which also requires two extra tracks. (At present, the S-Bahn ends at Spandau, but there are plans to extend it to Falkensee).

Beyond Nauen, the line carries long-distance trains, and one all-stations service: Regional-Express line RE2 to Wismar. Nevertheless, new regional services, and segregation of traffic, probably require four tracks as far as Neustadt (Dosse), 75 km from Berlin.

The new cutoff line would start north of Neustadt station. It would be about 62-65 km long: built across agricultural land, with no intermediate stations, and carrying only high-speed trains.

Long bypass of Wittenberge on the line Berlin - Hamburg.

At Neustadt itself, space is a problem: it is the junction for the proposed regional rail line Schwerin – Parchim – Neustadt, and other restored regional lines. However, the alignment itself is perfect, so the logical solution is extra high-speed tracks through the station, in tunnel or on viaduct. At the other end, the new cutoff line would rejoin the existing line, 5 km north of Karstädt.

The ‘A24 Neubaustrecke’ would leave the existing alignment east of Hagenow Land station, and pass north of Hagenow. It might follow part of the old line to Ratzeburg, but that is not absolutely necessary. Near exit 10 it would join the A24 Autobahn, and follow it for about 50 km. The new section would be about 72-75 km long.

Between exits 5 and 6, the new line would diverge from the Autobahn, to join the existing line between Aumühle and Wohltorf. These are the outer suburbs of Hamburg: Aumühle is the terminus of S-Bahn line S21. The relatively dispersed suburban housing makes it difficult to cut new alignments through the area, and the link might be in tunnel.

HSL along the A24 Autobahn between Berlin and Hamburg.

The 24-km section, from the new junction to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, would also need extra capacity. Unlike the Berlin – Nauen line, this section carries only one regional service: Regionalbahn line R20. There is one intermediate station: Bergedorf, also served by a few Intercity trains. (The others are served by the parallel S-Bahn). More frequent regional services would need extra tracks, which is difficult with the curving and restricted alignment into Bergedorf.

The total length of new alignments between Berlin and Hamburg would be about 135-140 km – almost half the existing route. With a new parallel line through Ludwigslust, there would be a 175-km section designed for 300 km/h. It should then be possible to reduce Berlin – Hamburg journey time to 80 minutes, and Berlin – Schwerin time to under 70 minutes.

New high-speed alignments between Berlin and Hamburg

High-speed rail line Lübeck – Rostock

This Lübeck – Wismar – Rostock 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 new HSL would link three historic cites along the Baltic coast, Lübeck (population 210 000), Wismar (population 45 000), and Rostock (population 203 000).

HSL (ABS/NBS) Lübeck - Wismar - Rostock

There is no through rail line at present, and there never was. The line east from Lübeck does not go to Wismar: instead it turns inland to Bad Kleinen, a junction station. There it connects with the Schwerin – Rostock line, and the line to Wismar, both electrified.

The line Lübeck – Bad Kleinen, map by NordNordWest, under CC 3.0 licence..

From Wismar, there is also a single-track diesel line to Rostock. A new HSL, parallel to the coast, would avoid the detour via Bad Kleinen. The main problem is the station location at Wismar, where there is no clear east-west alignment available. The HSL could form part of a longer high-speed corridor to Stralsund, but only the Lübeck – Rostock section is considered here. (The line can also be combined with a high-speed route Lübeck – Schwerin, using a new western bypass of Bad Kleinen).

From Lübeck Hauptbahnhof, the existing line to Grevesmühlen would be upgraded as Ausbaustrecke. (East of both Lüdersdorf and Schönberg stations, a new alignment would be needed). East of Grevesmühlen, the existing line turns toward Bad Kleinen: the HSL would run straight to Wismar on a new alignment. The HSL described here would not follow the the A20 Autobahn, which has a sinuous alignment. (An alternative along the A20 south of Wismar, is described separately).

HSL Lübeck - Wismar, alignment east of Grevesmühlen.

At Wismar, the line could run south of the town, with a new station where it crosses the line from Schwerin. A better option is a line in tunnel, with a station close to the centre. There are several possible alignments: the one shown below passes the south-eastern edge of the historic centre. It would be partly in tunnel, but would run alongside the existing road viaduct over the rail line (Dr.-Leber-Strasse / Rostocker Strasse). The existing station would be relocated southwards, creating a single new station, at the crossing with the old line. Trains from Schwerin could use an additional viaduct with platforms, to run through to Rostock. The HSL would rejoin the existing alignment near Hornstorf.

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

East of Wismar, the line would first follow the existing line to Rostock, and then diverge onto a new alignment. (The A20 is too far south in this case). The HSL would rejoin the existing line, on the outskirts of Rostock. The section into Rostock Hauptbahnhof is curved, and would need local realignment. The station itself is adequate for new traffic: it is close to the historic city centre, although Rostock has expanded northwards toward Warnemünde.

HSL Lübeck - Rostock, line into Rostock.

Rostock has a small S-Bahn network, and would be the terminus of a proposed HSL route from Berlin. East of Rostock, the HSL can be extended to Stralsund, following the existing line, which is relatively direct.

The new line from Lübeck to Wismar would be 60 km long, and the new Wismar – Rostock section about 50 km. With one stop, journey time for the 110 km Lübeck – Rostock line, should be just under 40 minutes.

High-speed rail line Lübeck – Rostock

High-speed rail line Berlin – Rostock

This Berlin – Rostock 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 line runs via Neustrelitz: the proposed alignment is intended to reroute the line through Neubrandenburg, strengthening its function as a regional centre. The Rostock – Neubrandenburg section can also serve as part of a high-speed route to Szczecin.

High-speed rail line Berlin - Neubrandenburg - Rostock, ABS / NBS.

The existing line consists of the Berliner Nordbahn (1877), as far as Neustrelitz, and the Lloydbahn (1886) from there to Rostock. The line is electrified, and almost entirely double-track.

The upgrading to a high-speed route starts with restoration of the abandoned section of the Nordbahn in Berlin itself, from Bornholmer Strasse to Hohen Neuendorf. Although reopening has been planned since reunification, nothing has been done: only the parallel S-Bahn tracks are in use. Other trains use the outer rail ring (Berliner Aussenring, BAR). The 10 km from Hohen Neuendorf to Oranienburg would be upgraded, with at least one extra track to increase capacity.

With the restored Nordbahn alignment, Oranienburg would be 31 km from Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The curved alignment through Oranienburg limits speeds, but preferably all trains would stop there anyway, since it is a major interchange for the northern edge of Berlin. (More later on new and restored lines into Oranienburg).

North of Oranienburg, the alignment consists of straight sections linked by curves, These curves are the main obstacle to upgrading for high speed: the line passes mainly through forest, with no significant relief. Several sections must be re-aligned, moving the line east or west by 100-500 m.

Markus Gröbe proposed a new direct line between Neustrelitz and Neubrandenburg, as part of a HSL toward Rostock and Stralsund. The proposal here assumes that high-speed trains to Rostock do not stop in Neustrelitz, and a bypass is more logical. That can be combined with a more direct bypass of Burg Stargard.

Click to enlarge: Neustrelitz bypass…

Bypass of Neustrelitz on HSL Berlin - Neubrandenburg - Rostock.

The Neustrelitz bypass would turn from the existing line, about 5-6 km south of Neustrelitz station. It would briefly run parallel to the B96, and then climb to higher ground, rejoining the line near Thurow. The bypass would be purely for high speed trains, so the gradients are not a problem.

The HSL would then run next to the existing line, and diverge again onto a second bypass, near Rollenhagen. The HSL would cross the Wanzkaer See on two bridges, and continue north-east. It would pass through agricultural land west of Burg Stargard, and rejoin the existing line at the edge of Neubrandenburg, near Fünfeichen. It would drop about 20 m over a low escarpment there. The alignment in Neubrandenburg might need improvement, but the sharpest curve is near the station, where trains slow anyway.

HSL Berlin - Neubrandenburg with new lines around Neustrelitz.

All trains would stop at Neubrandenburg (population 65 000). It would be 130 km from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, via the new line. Neubrandenburg station would be an interchange with other new and upgraded lines: more on those later.

From Neubrandenburg, a single-track line runs via Malchin to Güstrow (Bützow–Szczecin line, 1864). From its crossing with the Lloydbahn at Lalendorf, it is electrified. This route is not suitable for upgrading as Ausbaustrecke Neubrandenburg – Rostock. The preferable option is a HSL alongside this line, with new alignments west of Neubrandenburg and west of Malchin.

New high-speed rail line Neubrandenburg - Rostock, NBS to Laage.

The first new section would leave the existing line at the edge of Neubrandenburg, climbing about 25 m to higher ground. It would extend about 16-18 km to Grischow, where it would rejoin the existing alignment. The HSL would closely follow the existing line to Malchin.

East of Malchin a completely new 40-km alignment would run north-west, north of the Teterower See. Most of this section is relatively level, but the line must first cross the ridge between Malchin and Teterow the Mecklenburgische Schweiz.

The lake depression and the ridge, near Malchin, by Ch. Pagenkopf under CC 3.0 licence.

The existing line crosses the ridge without difficulty. Although it is too curved for high speeds, the HSL can follow it approximately, diverging west of Remplin. At Kronskamp, north of Laage station, the new alignment would rejoin the main line (Lloydbahn).

From there, the HSL could again run next to the main line – or that line could be 4-tracked and upgraded, over the 20 km to Rostock Hauptbahnhof. This station is near the southern edge of city, which extends north along the estuary to the Baltic shore. At Rostock (population 200 000), the line would connect with S-Bahn and regional services, and with a new east-west high-speed route.

The HSL from Neubrandenburg would be about 100-105 km long, giving a total high-speed route from Berlin to Rostock of about 230-235 km. That is longer than the existing route via the Lloydbahn – about 215 km, if it used the restored Nordbahn line in Berlin itself. However, the HSL is not solely intended for Berlin – Rostock traffic, and its tracks would be used by other high-speed routes through Neubrandenburg.

High-speed rail line Berlin – Rostock

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 3

This is the third part of a proposal for a high-speed line (HSL, Schnellfahrstrecke, Neubaustrecke) from Enschede to Hannover, part of an Amsterdam – Berlin line. The line takes its name from the Mittellandkanal which it parallels.

Read the introduction first. This part covers the line through Minden and on to Hannover. The previous post ended with the alignment along the Mittellandkanal, between Alswede and Isenstedt (20 km from Minden). There are two main options east from there.

The HSL could leave the canal at Isenstedt, and bypass Minden, about 6 km north of the city centre. This alignment (shown in green) would rejoin the main line to Hannover at Stadthagen. However, if the HSL avoids Minden anyway, then the most direct alignment is straight from Kalkriese to Hannover (shown in yellow). All alignments north of Minden, would cut through the Schaumburger Wald, to reach the existing Minden – Hannover line.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Enschede - Hannover through Minden, alignment options

Minden (population 82 000) is the largest urban centre between Bielefeld and Hannover. Routing the HSL near the city would allow trains from the east to access the station, and the Minden – Hannover section can be used by Dortmund – Bielefeld – Hannover high-speed trains. (The Dortmund – Minden line is partially upgraded for 200 km/h).

The only available surface alignment through Minden (shown in white) is along the southern bypass road (B65), and the former rail siding to Häverstädt. The HSL would follow the Mittellandkanal to Hille, cross the canal, and turn south-east. It would join the old rail alignment at Dützen, on the edge of the built-up area. The old line is free of buildings, presumably for a planned extension of the bypass. The HSL would cross the Weser alongside the road, and then turn east, south of the gravel pits. Very high speed is probably not possible, on the route through Minden.

Click to enlarge…

HSL Enschede - Hannover via Minden

The HSL would cross the existing Minden – Hannover line, bypass Bückeburg, and join the line further east.

The new line north of Bückeburg can also link to a new tunnel, under the Wesergebirge ridge (shown in green). The existing main line Dortmund – Minden – Hannover passes through a gorge cut by the Weser, at Porta Westfalica. The new tunnel would be used by high-speed trains between Hannover and Bielefeld, by-passing Minden: more on this later.

An alignment through Minden allows link curves into the station, from east and west (shown in red). The western curve would diverge from the HSL before it crosses the Weser, and requires an additional bridge. The eastern curve is located where the HSL crosses the existing line to Hannover.

About 4 km east of Bückeburg station, the HSL would join the existing alignment. Upgrading of this line as Ausbaustrecke was officially planned, but has been suspended. The HSL would require a 4-track line through Stadthagen, upgraded for high speed. This should not be a problem: the line is almost straight.

HSL Enschede - Hannover from Minden to Hannover (NBS, ABS)

A new cut-off line from Haste to Seelze (avoiding Wunstorf) would complete the high-speed route. From there it is 11 km to Hannover Hauptbahnhof.

The entire alignment Enschede – Hannover via Minden would be about 215-220 km long. With a line speed of 300 km/h (except through Minden), that should allow a journey time of around one hour.

The line speed on the connecting HSL Hannover – Berlin is nominally 250 km, but that only applies to its middle section. (Trains take 1h 40min, an average speed of only 155 km/h). New parallel tracks on that line, could bring total Amsterdam – Berlin journey time down to 3 h 20 mins, over a total route length of 615-625 km.

Mittelland high-speed line Enschede – Hannover, part 3