Nationwide train cancellations and delays have reached a new high this year. Deutsche Bahn promises improvement and is planning major renovation projects for the coming years. Among other things, the Berlin-Hamburg route is to be closed for six months. The new concept is already receiving criticism.
Passengers on the busy Berlin-Hamburg railway line will have to be prepared for longer travel times and restrictions for around six months in 2025 - but after that everything should get better. Between June and December 2025, the railway wants to completely block and rehabilitate the 280-kilometer route, as the group announced.
During the six-month construction work, tracks, switches, overhead lines and signal boxes are to be modernized. According to the report, train stations are to receive new platform roofs, weather shelters and signage systems, and accessibility is to be improved. In Hagenow-Land and Wittenberge, the track infrastructure is being expanded to create overtaking opportunities for trains. The entire corridor is also to be equipped for digital rail operations - for example via the ETCS train control system.
The railways are setting up diversions for long-distance and freight traffic. During the renovation phase, the trains are to run via Uelzen, Salzwedel and Stendal as well as via Hanover. "Depending on the detour route, travelers have to plan between 45 and 105 minutes more time," it said. In regional traffic, replacement traffic should be on the move on the affected sections.
Both corridors are "central building blocks in the future high-speed network," said Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz. The aim is to attract even more people and companies to the railways by renovating the most important corridors.
The infrastructure of the railway is completely overloaded in many places and in great need of renovation. As a result, the trains are less reliable and less punctual than they have been in years due to the large number of small-scale construction projects. In the summer, Deutsche Bahn therefore announced the so-called general renovation of its network and identified several corridors with a particular need for modernization. Instead of countless individual measures that have repeatedly slowed down traffic on these routes over the years, the corridors are now to be completely closed and modernized for a limited period of time. As a result, no more construction work will be necessary there in the foreseeable future and trains will be able to run without restrictions.
The first modernization project will start in 2024 on the Frankfurt am Main and Mannheim route, the so-called Riedbahn. By 2030, Deutsche Bahn wants to renovate at least two more corridors per year, including the sections that have now been announced. From Deutsche Bahn's point of view, the renovation of the first corridors should already relieve the entire network, because everything is connected in long-distance traffic.
Criticism of the concept came from the Freight Railway Association Network of European Railways (NEE), in which the railway's competitors in rail freight transport are organized. "Nothing has been agreed in the sense suggested here," said Vice Chairman Sven Flore. In a statement on the corridors to the railway, the association criticizes, among other things, the foreseeable simultaneity of the construction work on the Riedbahn and on the Oberhausen-Emmerich route. The choice of the route and the period was "not conclusively justified". According to its own statements, the association also doubts that the diversion concepts, for example for the Berlin-Hamburg corridor, are realistic.