Rail passengers between Hamburg and Berlin face longer travel times and fewer trains

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Rail passengers between Hamburg and Berlin face longer travel times and fewer trains
An ICE train in Hamburg recently. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bodo Marks

Deutsche Bahn is beginning a major renovation of the line between Hamburg and Berlin, meaning there will be lots of disruption.


From Saturday, trains will be rerouted between Germany's two largest cities.

Train times can vary but it usually takes roughly 100 minutes to two hours for direct travel between Hamburg and Berlin. According to Deutsche Bahn, the travel time will be extended by about 50 minutes for the next three months - but tickets will remain at the same price.

Deutsche Bahn wants to complete the work by Germany's planned timetable change on December 11th. 


Long-distance trains from Berlin to the Hanseatic city will be diverted via Stendal and Uelzen during this time, using the so-called Amerikabahn line, reported the Tagesspiegel on Friday. 

And there's more disruption to the timetable: the half-hourly service to Hamburg, which was only introduced in December, will be suspended, because no more than one ICE train per hour can travel on the rerouted line. This route is partially single-tracked and has a low capacity.

Google maps shows an example of the diversion on trains in red between Berlin and Hamburg from Saturday for the next three months. Screenshot:

How exactly will it affect journeys?

ICE trains will run around every hour.

Trains will stop in Stendal and Salzwedel, and every two hours in Uelzen, while there won't be any stops in Wittenberge, Ludwigslust and Büchen.


The trains on the EC/IC line Hamburg-Berlin-Dresden-Prague-Budapest will be cancelled between Hamburg and Berlin.

On certain routes (e.g. between Hamburg and Ludwigslust or from Wittenberge to Osterburg), buses will be used as a substitute during certain periods. There will also be some substitute connections with local trains.

From November 22nd, the situation should ease a bit. Two ICE trips a day will be possible in the morning and afternoon on the direct route - with stops in Wittenberge and Ludwigslust, and partly also in Büchen.

Meanwhile, the single track has the potential to cause delays. That's because every train, even with a slight delay, automatically upsets the schedule of oncoming trains. A decade ago, when trains to Hamburg were rerouted via the Amerikabahn, lots of ICE trains were delayed.

It comes at a tricky time for rail travel in Germany which has seen a series of recent strikes called by the German train drivers union (GDL).

READ ALSO: Are the German rail strikes going to end soon?

What's the work for?

Deutsche Bahn is investing €100 million to upgrade the well-used Berlin-Hamburg high-speed line, including 200 kilometers of new rails plus new control and safety technology. 

Construction is underway on the Ludwigslust-Büchen and Berlin-Spandau and Wittenberge sections. Therefore, Berlin trains from Spandau to the west are also affected. The new travel times will be shown in the DB app and online.


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