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Hamburg: Construction of Fifth ‘U-Bahn’ Train Line Commences

In Hamburg, a ground-breaking ceremony just marked the beginning of the implementation of a big project. Germany’s second-largest city will have a brandnew metro line. The U5 is supposed to connect Bramfeld to Volkspark. And it will be driverless.

Berlin, September 30th, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — Hamburg is replicating a big construction project that was completed in July of last year, 280 kilometers (174 miles) further east, in Berlin. Back then, the inauguration of ‘Museum Island’ station finalized Berlin’s new U5. But the capital had an advantage: There already was an U5 and an U55. The task was to connect the two partial lines and turn them into a long one. Mission accomplished.

Direct Access

Guess what: Hamburg needs a U5 too. And it is building it as of today. The beautiful city up there in the northwestern part of Germany may be only about half as big as Berlin, but 1.86 million inhabitants need to move back and forth as well. In the past decades, Hamburg has been growing. Up to now, a lot of the public transport traffic between Hamburg’s eastern and western parts is covered by buses. Once the U5 is complete, tens of thousands of Hamburgers will have direct access to the ‘U-Bahn’ system from their homes for the first time.

The U5’s route is U-shaped. Picture: Hochbahn AG

Berlin’s U5 project was quite an endeavor, also because the engineers involved had to freeze parts of the Spree river in order to be able to build a tunnel beneath Museum Island, and they did build beautiful stations. Hamburg’s U5 might not get stations with starlit skies, but it will be more modern than any other U-Bahn or S-Bahn line in Germany. It is supposed to be driverless. Yes, these trains will be racing through those tunnels like earthworms. No drivers need to be employed. Of course, the state-owned Hochbahn AG will have employees who stare at screens and make sure the system works flawlessly.

First Stretch

Once it is ready to be inaugurated, the U5’s route in Hamburg will be U-shaped. It’s an U-Bahn after all, right? It will go from Bramfeld in the city’s northeast to Volkspark and the arenas in the northwest. But the project’s route is not a direct one. Those trains will be heading to City Nord, Uhlenhorst, St. Georg and Central Station before they move on towards the University Clinic in Eppendorf (UKE). Via Hagenbeck’s Tierpark, Hamburg’s zoo, it is supposed to continue to Stellingen and Volkspark.

On its way, the new U-Bahn (underground, tube, metro, subway) will obviously be crossing and connecting to other U-Bahn lines, the S-Bahn as well as regional and long distance trains. Several regular stations are supposed to be converted into interchange stations. For now, only the first stretch is under construction, from Bramfeld to City Nord. Part of it is supposed to built above ground, and the rest of it in tunnels. A huge tunnel digging machine will be eating its way through the ground. Machines do not complain. And they don’t need vacations or pay raises.

Grant Application

One of the project’s biggest fans is Hamburg’s First Mayor Peter Teschentscher. At today’s groundbeaking ceremony, he said the U5 would improve mobility in the city and advance climate protection. Entire boroughs would be connected to the train network for the first time. Hamburgers would be on the move quickly and comfortably. The whole thing would be climate-friendly too, Tschentscher promised. Travel times would be shortened.

Hamburg’s U5 is supposed to be the first driverless U-Bahn in Germany. Picture: Hochbahn AG

Some 270,000 passengers are expected to use the U5 every single day. But first, it has to be built. By the way: Building things costs money, especially when the project is as big as this one, with 23 stations. The first stretch is 5.8 kilometers (3.6 miles) long. It alone costs 1.8 billion Euro (1.75 billion U.S. Dollars or 1.58 billion Pounds Sterling). Neither Peter Tschentscher’s government nor the Hochbahn AG know how much the entire U5 line might cost. But they already know who will paying part of it, namely the federal government. A grant application will be handed in next year. Test operations on the first stretch are scheduled to commence in 2027.

Related feature: Hamburg: Germany’s ‘Gate to the World’

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