Essen public rail transport system integrates the classic metro with the tram/light rail network under the name of Essen Stadtbahn. The network is 19.6km long and uses the standard 1.435mm gauge. The network has 45 stations and was put into operation on 28 May 1977. Constructively, the network integrates the surface light rail infrastructure with an underground metro-like network, but using the same rolling stock.
Essen Stadtbahn is an operator managed by Essener Verkehrs-AG (EVAG), who manages the entire transport network of Essen. The network has been built based on the Frankfurt concept, where the U-Bahn operates both as metro and light rail. Apart from Essen Stadtbahn, the city also has 54 km of light metro lines.
The Essen Stadtbahn network includes the U11, U17, U18 lines that operate on standard gauge. A particularity of the network is that in some areas it meets the tram network that operates on a 1.000mm gauge with common stations for both networks. Around 1,9 km are common with the tram network. The first line, U18, was put into operation on the Wiener Platz route (Hirschlandplatz) – Heißen (8.2 km, 2 km underground) in 1977 followed by the U17 Universität – Planckstr. – Margarethenhöhe (3.6 km underground) in 1981 and by U11 U11 Saalbau – Gruga/Florastr in 1986. Extensions of the U11 and U17 lines were carried out in 2001 and 2004 to increase the efficiency of the transport system. The three lines use two types of rolling stock structured as a multiple unit (EMUs). Stadtbahnwagen B are light trains introduced in the network between 1976 and 1985, recently modernised to include passenger information systems, new signalling equipment and general overhaul. The P86/P89 light rail units have been introduced starting with 1991 and are manufactured by Linke-Hofmann-Busch. They were fitted with the Alcatel SelTrac signalling and control systems in order to increase the efficiency of their operation in tunnels.
Future plans include the development of several additional stations on the U17 line in the Margarethenhoehe terminal area to serve several areas in the south of the city. Also, the authorities are preparing to launch a project to extend the U11 line to the south of the city too. Another project considered together with the tram network managers is connected to the Seamless multimodal travel Travel Smart standardisation of stations and common areas to harmonize the rolling stock fleet. The disadvantage of operating the metro and light metro systems is that there are steps or large spaces between the floor of the cars and the platform level.
Essen tram network
The Essen tram network operates on 54 km with a total of 8 routes, both at surface and in the underground, meeting the Essen Stadtbahn. The network has been put into operation starting with 1967, when the Saalbau line was opened, up to 1998, when the most recent network section was opened on the Universität – Altenessen route (2.5 km). However, the first rail vehicles have run in Essen since 1893, the network being subject to several reconfigurations along the years. The tram routes run both inside and outside the city where lines 104 and 107 provide connections to Gelsenkirchen and Mülheim. The rolling stock includes Duewag M8S cars manufactured in 1975, Duewag M8C cars manufactured as of 1979, with high floor and special hatches to run on the lines it shares with the metro. Also, in 1999, low-floor M8DNF car manufactured by DWA/Adtranz were bought. The rolling stock modernisation plan with modern cars was launched in 2014 once the Bombardier Flexity Classic cars were bought.
Essen main rail station intermodal hub
The 4-lines stations of Essen Hauptbahnhof is the main junction of the three Essen Stadtbahn lines and of the tram network, which, depending on the programme, has 5 lines converging in this hub. This station is among the few in the world that has several types of platforms to adapt to metro cars, classic tram cars and low-floor cars, thus integrating all possible vehicles operated by Essen Hauptbahnhof and by the network of classic trams. The construction facilitates rapid transfer between trains and local transport modes, irrespective of the transit location. Also, another rare feature of this station is the insertion of the rolling track by building a double-gauge rolling track for tram and metro.
(Featured image: Flickr, Mathias Pastwa – flickr.com)