Regional rail line Güstrow – Karow – Wittenberge

The restoration of through passenger services on an upgraded Güstrow – Karow – Wittenberge line 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 line crosses the Mecklenburg lake region, a major tourist and recreational region north of Berlin, with several nature reserves. The small town of Karow was once a minor railway junction, and could serve as a rail access point for the region.

The abandoned statin at Karow, image by Niteshift under CC3.0 licence


The route is 117 km long, and consists of three sections:

In the GDR period, a local train service ran south from Güstrow to Neustadt (Dosse), on the main line Hamburg – Berlin. Through services were abandoned after reunification. There are local plans to reactivate the line for freight.

Video: the Güstrow – Karow – Neustadt service before closure…

The disused alignment is protected in the new regional plan, Regionalen Raumentwicklungsprogrammes Westmecklenburg. The proposal here is to switch the southern terminal to Wittenberge, also on the main Hamburg – Berlin line. That would maximize regional and inter-regional interchange. Passengers to Berlin would change at Pritzwalk, onto the Prignitz-Express route (into Berlin via the Kremmener Bahn). The proposed pattern of service is shown below:

Rural regional lines in the Berlin / Schwerin / Rostock region.

The Güstrow – Karow – Wittenberge line is in blue, the Prignitz-Express route in orange. (The line to Neustadt would carry a through service from Schwerin, via a reopened Parchim – Putlitz line, shown in brown). All the lines would be electrified, and double-tracked where necessary, for a 30-minute service frequency.

At Karow, the line would cross the existing Ludwigslust – Waren rail line (light green), and a reopened line from Wismar (dark green). The restored junction would provide rail access to the lake region, with local lines in 5 directions from Karow.

Regional rail line Güstrow – Karow – Wittenberge

Regional rail line Schwerin – Rehna – Lübeck

The single-track railway from Schwerin toward Lübeck ends ‘temporarily’ at the village of Rehna. There was not enough money to build the missing section to Schönberg. 110 years on, there is still no money, but it will be “studied”, according to the new regional plan, Regionalen Raumentwicklungsprogrammes Westmecklenburg. Completion of the line is considered here, as part of a series of proposals for the triangle Hamburg – Berlin – Szczecin. Read first the introduction, on new rail infrastructure north of Berlin.

The proposed high-speed rail line Schwerin – Lübeck would carry all traffic between the two urban regions. The line via Rehna would then have a purely regional function. (It could carry a regional service through Schwerin to Parchim, as at present).

Missing link Rehna - Schönberg on the railway from Schwerin to Lübeck.

Besides construction of the missing section Rehna – Schönberg, the line should be electrified and upgraded. The present line speed is low: Rehna – Schwerin takes 45 minutes, for only 34 km. With a more intensive service on this line, and other proposed lines into Schwerin, the capacity of the line through Schwerin itself would also be a problem. A city-centre tunnel on the existing alignment seems the only solution, but that is not considered further here.

The missing section is about 11 km long. Rehna station is at the edge on the village, and there are no built-up areas to obstruct the alignment. The line would roughly follow the B104, passing only the small village of Roduchelstorf. (With only 250 inhabitants, it seems too small to justify a station). The new section would join the existing line east of Schönberg, probably near the B104 over-bridge. The earlier proposal for a high-speed rail line Lübeck – Rostock would require a bypass of the curves at Schönberg, but would not obstruct completion of the line from Rehna.

Regional rail line Schwerin – Rehna – Lübeck

Inter-regional line Graz – Zalaegerszeg

High-speed rail lines (HSL) along the eastern flank of the Alps, proposed here earlier, would transform the regional railway geography. The proposed HSL from Vienna (Wien) would split at Szombathely. The HSL to Maribor includes an interchange station at Szentgotthárd. That would allow interchange with the existing rail line from Graz, the Steirische Ostbahn along the Rába / Raab valley.

Video: the existing Szentgotthárd – Szombathely line…

The other branch of the high-speed line (HSL) from Vienna, the line to the Drava plains, would pass through Zalaegerszeg. However, there would still be no direct connection, from Graz to Zalaegerszeg.

Passengers from Graz to Zalaegerszeg could travel to Szentgotthárd, change to the HSL, travel north-east to Szombathely, and then back southwards to Zalaegerszeg. That is a long detour. Alternatively, they could travel to Maribor or Murska Sobota, and use the proposed inter-regional line Maribor – Murska Sobota – Zalaegerszeg. That too involves a long detour.

Click to enlarge: new link Maribor – Murska Sobota – Zalaegerszeg…

Maribor to Zalaegerszeg, inter-regional rail line via Murska Sobota.

A new regional service can be created, by building a new line across the Őrség hills. It would connect the Rába / Raab valley to the Zala valley, linking the existing rail lines in those valleys. From Graz into the Raab valley, trains would use the Steirische Ostbahn. In the Zala valley, they would use the Murska Sobota – Zalaegerszeg line. This cross-border line via Hodoš was re-opened in 2001, primarily as a transit route from Hungary to Slovenia. It was rebuilt to high standards, and was electrified in 2010.

Inter-regional rail line Graz - Zalaegerszeg via Szentgotthárd.

The only topographical obstacle is the Őrség ridge, but it is only about 100 m above the valley floors. The region is a national park, but the restored Hodoš line runs through it already, with extra environmental protection.

The new Raab – Zala link would start east of Szentgotthárd Although this is a small town (population 9000), it is a logical site for interchange between HSL and regional rail lines. That includes the proposed new link from the Thermenbahn at Fürstenfeld.

Click to enlarge: new 20-km link line Fürstenfeld – Szentgotthárd…


There are several possible alignments between the Raab and the Zala. The simplest would turn south from the Raab valley near Csörötnek, and pass through the Őrség region near Kondorfa. It would pass north of Őriszentpéter, and join the Zala valley line east of Nagyrákos. It would be about 20 km long: the S-shape is determined by the local topography.

Click to enlarge: The new line superimposed on the original railway geography, from an Austro-Hungarian military map of around 1910.

New rail line between Szentgotthárd and Nagyrákos, for line Graz - Zalaegerszeg.

The new line could also follow the existing Körmend – Zalalövő rail line, which crosses the ridge about 14 km further east. It is more of a straight line, but the junctions are aligned the wrong way for Graz – Zalaegerszeg traffic. Even with new approaches at both ends, this route would probably be as long as the first option.

In theory, there are many other possible alignments. The Raab and Zala valleys run parallel to each other, about 15 km apart, so all routes between them are approximately equal in length. However, the alignment near Őriszentpéter seems the most logical.

The line along the Zala into Zalaegerszeg is already upgraded, but is single-track. At present, traffic is low, but a regular inter-regional service would require capacity improvements. The Steirische Ostbahn between Graz and Szentgotthárd, about 82 km, also needs upgrading, and enough capacity for separate local and inter-regional services.

The total length of the new route Graz – Zalaegerszeg is about 143-145 km. With upgraded approaches to a new central section, journey time would be under two hours. At Zalaegerszeg, the line would connect to the proposed HSL to the Drava plain, and also to an upgraded line to Budapest (more on that later).

Inter-regional line Graz – Zalaegerszeg