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Germany: Train Trips Between Berlin and Hamburg to Take a Lot Longer

On trains, the travel time between Berlin and Hamburg will increase substantially for a while, thanks to a giant renovation project. Covering the distance on the back of a donkey will not take as long as going on a bullet train.

Berlin, May 19th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — There are certain things that are not supposed to increase, including the number of Corona infections, that of crimes, an adult person’s weight, or the travel time on German bullet trains. But in spite of this ground rule, the latter will soon be extended between Berlin and Hamburg. All trains will go for involuntary sightseeing tours in Saxony-Anhalt before they reach their destinations.

Epic Proportions

Deutsche Bahn is preparing for a big project. Between Germany’s two largest cities, Berlin and Hamburg, it needs to renovate the tracks. What sounds easy actually is an endeavor of epic proportions. Starting on September 11th, 2021 (which happens to be the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks in New York City, Arlington/Virginia and Pennsylvania), absolutely all train tracks between Berlin-Spandau and Büchen, some tiny community in Schleswig-Holstein, will have to be replaced.

With a length of 200 kilometers (124 miles), this will probably be the longest construction site since the digging of the Panama Canal. Deutsche Bahn will replace 24 switches, 15,000 ties and 30,000 metric tons of gravel underneath. On top of it all, the state-owned company intends to install a new digital control system “for a modern, reliable and capable infrastructure”. Sure. It will take three months to get it all done, which is rather quick considering the size of the project.

Full Throttle

A big project usually has a big price tag. This one is no exception. Deutsche Bahn will have to pile up 100 million Euro (122 million U.S. Dollars or 86 million Pounds Sterling). The company says it is combining many tasks in order to keep the ramifications for the passengers as small as possible. Deutsche Bahn is asking people to inform themselves about the travel times before they take their trip.

The bad news is that 50 minutes have to be added. At this stage, the fastest ICE train connection from Berlin to Hamburg or vice versa does the trip in 104 minutes. This is already slow, because the tracks between the two cities support speeds of up to 230 km/h (143 mph) only. If those ICE bullet trains could cover the distance of 290 kilometers (180 miles) at full throttle, they would arrive at their destination within an hour. During the construction project, between September 11th and December 11th of this year, the trip will take at least 2:34 hours, depending on the train chosen.

Buses and Trains

The EuroCity and IntercIty (EC/IC) trains which usually go from Budapest and Prague to Dresden, Berlin and Hamburg will end in Berlin until the construction is completed. From September 11th, 2021, until the end of October, the usual ICE train connection between Ostseebad Binz at the Baltic Sea and Hamburg will end in Schwerin, meaning it will not continue on to Hamburg. Of course, the mess this renovation project creates will be felt on the local level as well. In Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein, some local trains will be replaced by buses. No long-distance trains will stop in Büchen, Ludwigslust or Wittenberge. Bon voyage.

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