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Berlin: Goodbye to an ‘U-Bahn’ Train Station and Hello to Three New Ones

There finally is a date: On December 4th, 2020, the missing link on Berlin’s ‘U5’ metro line is scheduled to be inaugurated. There are three new stations. One will be closed for good.

In 2017, the BVG, Berlin’s main public transport provider, was going to close the gap between its ‘U-Bahn’ lines 5 and 55. What Germans call ‘U-Bahn’ is the Tube in London, the Métro in Paris or the Subway in New York City. There was a three-year delay because the construction was rather complicated. Of course, construction delays are not exactly new occurrences in the German capital.

Ready to Rumble

The new stretch connects ‘Alexanderplatz’ station to Brandenburg Gate. Between those two spots, the new stations are ‘Rotes Rathaus’ (Red City Hall), ‘Museumsinsel’ (Museum Island) and ‘Unter den Linden’ (see main photo at top of page). Red City Hall station is ready to rumble. So is ‘Unter den Linden’, where the ‘U5’ and ‘U6’ lines connect.

Au revoir, ‘Französische Strasse’. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

For now, the ‘U6’ line stops at ‘Französische Strasse’, located some 200 meters from ‘Unter den Linden’. On December 4th, 2020, that old station will not be needed anymore, which means Berlin will not just lose the only major airport on its turf before this year ends, but also ‘Französische Strasse’ station.

Construction Nightmare

‘Museumsinsel’ is a different story. It will take another year until it can be opened. In this particular case, the construction was a nightmare. They had to freeze the ground in order to be able to do it (read separate article ‘Berlin’s New ‘U-Bahn’ and the Light at the End of the Tunnel‘).

One gate at ‘Französische Strasse’ is already locked. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Very soon, the BVG will set up ten ‘info points’ between ‘Alexanderplatz’ and Brandenburg Gate, in order to show passengers what they can expect. For instance, Brandenburgers will be able to go straight to Berlin’s central station from the village of Hönow, without changing trains.

Back to ‘Ghost Station’ Status

‘Französische Strasse’, the station that will be shut down, was opened on January 30th, 1923. By the time they lock it and throw away the key, it will have served Berliners for almost 98 years. Its entrances are located on ‘Friedrichstrasse’, part of which is being turned into a pedestrian zone as we speak (read separate articleBerlin: The ‘Friedrichstrasse’ Pedestrian Zone Experiment‘).

‘Französische Strasse’ station was inaugurated almost 98 years ago. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, ‘Französische Straße’, which was located in East Berlin, the capital of the communist GDR, became a ‘ghost station’, meaning trains would just race through it without stopping. Now the station is about to go back to that status, for different reasons though.

Elegant and Shiny

On a quiet Sunday in August of 2020, nothing much happened down there in the station. Two homeless men, one of them without legs, played games on their cell phones. One entrance was already locked. A small hall in front of it was extremely dirty and smelled terrible.

This station will be closed on December 4th, 2020. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Those three new stations are the exact opposite. They could not be more elegant and shiny, for now. Right now, the total number of ‘U-Bahn’ stations in Berlin is 173. Starting on December 4th, it will be 174 (plus two, but minus one). Next year, 175 ‘U-Bahn’ stations will be part of the network.

‘Unter den Linden’ station looks futuristic. Phto: Imanuel Marcus

Related feature: Berlin’s New ‘U-Bahn’ and the Light at the End of the Tunnel

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