Transport in Berlin to become emission-free by 2037

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Thu 21st Apr, 2022

Regional transport in Berlin and Brandenburg is to become completely emission-free by 2037. On Wednesday, Berlin's Senator for Transport Bettina Jarasch (Greens), Brandenburg's Minister of Infrastructure Guido Beermann and Alexander Kaczmarek, Group Representative of Deutsche Bahn, presented the joint diesel phase-out strategy for the Berlin Brandenburg Transport Association (VBB). For the first time, the partners comprehensively list when the individual subnetworks in the network will be able to do without railcars with internal combustion engines.

On the Prignitz Express route, battery-electric trains will be used in the future. This is the conclusion reached by an expert report as part of i2030, the major joint project by Berlin, Brandenburg, the federal government and Deutsche Bahn to expand the rail network in the capital region (T+). "I am delighted that the Prignitz Express will soon be able to run on battery power," said Transport Senator Jarasch. In order to meet climate targets, she said, more alternatives to fossil-fuel drive systems must also be used on the railways.

To determine which drive is better suited for the route, the planning company Ramboll had compared battery trains with hydrogen trains in a study commissioned by the VBB. According to the study, the battery vehicles are significantly less expensive over a period of 30 years. At 518 million euros, the costs calculated are 122 million euros less than the sum that would be needed to operate hydrogen-fueled trains, according to the report.

On the line known as the Prignitz Express, the RE6 and RB55 lines run from Wittenberge via Neuruppin and Wittstock/Dosse to Hennigsdorf and from there with a curve via Spandau to the center of Berlin. Today, it is the longest rail link in Brandenburg without an overhead line - and has therefore been dependent on diesel trains until now. To do without diesel trains in the future, however, the entire line would not have to be electrified, explained railroad representative Kaczmarek. For operation with battery trains, it would be sufficient if only sections were equipped with electric lines, he said. "The train then hops from one island to the next," Kaczmarek said.

However, it is not possible to date without the overhead lines at all, according to the findings of the expert report. The total distance from Berlin to Wittenberge would "not be possible with the rail vehicles available on the market without additional recharging options in the course of the journey". The concept therefore envisages the installation of a contact wire on the almost 96-kilometer sections between Velten and Neuruppin West and Wittstock and Wittenberge. The trains managed a good 36 kilometers of track between Neuruppin West and Wittstock and south of Velten using energy from their battery storage.

The battery trains should ideally be in use from December 2028, with the restart of operations after the upcoming tender for the subnetwork. The prerequisite is that the new overhead lines are in place by then. As early as 2026, the section between Neuruppin and Hennigsdorf is to be upgraded so that trains can run every 30 minutes on the line. "The line connects important medium-sized centers in Brandenburg," said Infrastructure Minister Beermann. He added that this should succeed in a climate-neutral manner and with the most modern technologies. "This is no longer about castles in the air but about market-ready alternatives."

Just how far the technology has come was demonstrated by manufacturer Stadler, which provided its first battery train for a special trip from Berlin-Gesundbrunnen to Hennigsdorf. "This is a very proven vehicle," said Jure Mikolcic, CEO of Stadler Germany. He said the vehicle has been registered since 2018. It is designed for a distance of 80 kilometers in battery operation, he said. This would allow it to bridge 80 percent of the network gaps in Germany. In fact, the train is capable of much more. In December 2021, Mikolcic said, it set a new world record for battery trains with a distance of 224 kilometers. "Write out the use of the vehicles, technically it will succeed," the manager said.

From December 2024, the first 31 battery trains will also run in the VBB in the East Brandenburg network - but then from the manufacturer Siemens. At the same time, operation of the Heidekrautbahn with seven hydrogen trains will also start.

Image by Jonas Reichard


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