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Hamburg’s green depot

An artist’s impression of the new Billstedt depot. Image credit: Hamburger Hochbahn AG

For the first time since the 1960s, Hamburg’s Hochbahn is building a new depot for its U-Bahn system. The urban rail network in this north German harbour city is growing – and that makes greater capacity for fleet stabling and maintenance essential.

The most recent ridership figures show a 2.5% rise, to 455 million a year, and the current ‘big ticket’ projects are the five-stop line U5, as well as a one-stop extension of U4.

Hamburger Hochbahn is also expanding its fleet: in 2016 the number of vehicles was 230, but 260 are expected by 2030. That means the existing combination of a workshop in Barmbek (north of the city centre) and a running depot in Farmsen (in the north-east) will no longer be enough. So the solution is a new depot – for which the foundation ceremony took place in October 2017.

Environmental ‘upper league’

The new Billstedt depot will literally be a green facility – the main building incorporates a grassed roof – and also features heating from the district grid; a rainwater reclamation system; and insect-friendly lighting. Billstedt is described as playing in the “upper league” when it comes to Germany’s innovative standards.

The choice of location was driven by more basic considerations. Expanding the existing facility at Farmsen was a non-starter because it has insufficient space. In what had previously been a yard area, between Billstedt and Legienstrße to the east of the city, there was more space however. Choosing this spot put the new depot adjacent to U2 and U4, maximising efficiency by minimising empty stock working. Once it opens (in 2019), Billstedt will maintain trains for both those lines, while Farmsen will concentrate on those from U1 and U3. Some 39 employees of staff will call Billstedt their workplace.

The centrepiece of the EUR44m Billstedt investment is the depot building itself, which will be located east of the Legienbrücke (Legien bridge). It is to be 135m long and 34m wide, with space for four 120m-long trains. The plan is that it will be able to service 28 trains per day, while sets will be put through the separate washing plant (being built west of the Legienbrücke) every 21 days. The wash hall will have the same length as the main building, but just a single 120m-long track.
It will be 7m wide. The plan is for trains of DT3/DT4/DT5 vehicles to be dealt with here.

Larger expansion

Billstedt is part of a wider expansion of the Hochbahn system, which goes beyond the U-Bahn for in addition to rail-based transport, this municipal operator also runs bus services.

A second new depot is currently under construction for completion in 2019, but this will not be for trains but electric buses. Up to 240 vehicles are expected to be housed at the new facility at Gleisdreieck, north-east of the city centre.

Meanwhile, test boring has been taking place along the route of the new 5.8km (3.6-mile) U5, which is to run from Bramfeld to Steilshoop and have five stops. This is intended to connect areas with more than 100 000 inhabitants and 300 000 jobs to the U-Bahn network. Construction of U5
is hoped to start in 2021. When complete it is intended to offer services every five minutes, though the design is to allow anything up to 90-second headways if required.

A separate project – and one already at the construction phase – is that to extend U4 by 1.3km (0.8 miles) from Hafen City to Elbbrücken. This is to open at the end of 2018.

In January, Hamburger Hochbahn issued its latest tender for the delivery of new trains: between 50 and 90 driverless vehicles with moving block signalling for U5 (known as ‘Variant A’), as well as 70-110 driver-controlled trains for conventionally signalled routes (‘Variant F’). These trains are to be optionally converted to driver-free moving block working later. The tender invitation also includes an option for around 200 further vehicles. It is intended that ‘Variant F’ trains will enter service in 2024, with ‘Variant A’ vehicles following in 2028.

By that time, Billstedt should have been part of the network for nearly a decade.   

Thanks are due to Saskia Huhsfeldt of Hamburger Hochbahn for her assistance with this article.

Article originally featured in May 2018 TAUT (965).