First ‘overhead line islands’ for battery trains to be built in Germany

Instead of electrifying every kilometer of track, Deutsche Bahn (DB) will make overhead line ‘islands’ for battery trains on local railway lines in Schleswig-Holstein. These first routes using partial route electrification are expected to go into operation in December 2023.

The overhead line islands are sections of a few hundred meters to a few kilometers that are electrified. There, battery trains will run on electric traction from the overhead line while also charge their batteries to travel on the non-electrified sections. 

First battery trains in use by end of the year

Construction work in Schleswig-Holstein is scheduled to begin in autumn 2022. “The schedule is ambitious, but I’m sure that we can do it and then be able to run the first battery-powered trains by the end of this year”, said Schleswig-Holstein’s Transport Minister Bernd Buchholz. As the first step, DB is electrifying additional tracks in the stations of Kiel, Bad Oldesloe and Büchen so that the first battery-powered trains can start operation by the end of 2022, a first in Germany.

Next up is the expansion of the existing overhead lines on the Flensburg route in the direction of Kiel and between Kiel and Kiel Hassee in 2023. DB will then set up the first overhead line islands and charging substations for feeding in the traction current on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein in Heide, Husum and Tönning. From the timetable change in 2023, the battery trains can also run there.

Schematic of the overhead line islands on a railway line, where battery trains are charged on the electrified sections. Image: DB

Battery network

The future ‘battery network’ (Akkunet) covers 40 percent of the rail traffic in Schleswig-Holstein, including 10.4 million train kilometers and eleven railway lines. The diesel trains used up until now will be phased out. 55 Flirt AKKU battery trains from Stadler were ordered for operation in Schleswig Holstein in 2019 by the public transport authority Nahverkehrsverbund Schleswig-Holstein (NAH.SH), which was the first order of this type of trains for Swiss train builder Stadler. Stadler will also take up the maintenance of the trains for 30 years with a new maintenance workshop that is being built in Rendsburg.

NAH.SH started a special award procedure called XMU back in August 2016 to become a frontrunner in the use of battery trains on rails. The German state commissioned Paribus bought the trains and then lease them for 30 years to the railway companies that were selected. The Osthannoversche Eisenbahnen Aktiengesellschaft (OHE) and Nordbahn will operate the battery trains in Schleswig-Holstein.

In two other federal states in Germany, overhead line islands are also planned to be used in local rail transport. In southern Rhineland-Palatinate, the preliminary planning has already been completed, and the preliminary planning has begun in the Rhine-Ruhr region.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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