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All change in Berlin

By Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries |


It is all change for regional train services in the Berlin region from Sunday 13 December 2016. The image shows Berlin Hauptbahnhof (photo © hidden europe).

It is all change for regional train services in the Berlin region from Sunday 13 December 2016. The image shows Berlin Hauptbahnhof (photo © hidden europe).

This weekend sees substantial changes to regional train services in Berlin and more widely across eastern Germany.

The headline story is the opening of the new platforms for regional trains at Berlin Ostkreuz. The entire station has been thoroughly rebuilt in recent years, but has until now been used only by trains on Berlin’s city and inner-suburban services (viz. S-Bahn trains). That changes just before five on Sunday morning when the first regional train services pull into the new platforms at Ostkreuz station.

Ostkreuz will see four regional train departures each hour, with direct services to four different destinations in Brandenburg: Eberswalde, Senftenberg, Templin and Werneuchen.

Ostkreuz is – for now at least – the sole intermediate station on a reopened stretch of line which extends from Lichtenberg via Schöneweide to Grünauer Kreuz. The new platforms for regional trains at Schöneweide are expected to open in April 2016.

The new route through Ostkreuz means that the Berlin Aussenring (Outer Ring) route south of Biesdorfer Kreuz towards Grünau loses its regular scheduled passenger services – although the thrice weekly Russian Railways’ trains from Paris to Moscow will continue to be routed from Lichtenberg via Biesdorfer Kreuz to reach the main Berlin-Warsaw line just west of Köpenick.

Here’s a run-down of the principal changes to train services which come into effect on Sunday 13 December.

RE2: Wismar to Cottbus

This ODEG route has latterly run from Berlin Spandau via Jungfernheide, Gesundbrunnen and Lichtenberg to Königs Wusterhausen. From Sunday trains are re-routed via the Berlin Stadtbahn and will thus call at the upper level platforms at Berlin Hauptbahnhof (as well as other main stations on the Stadtbahn).

The stopping pattern of trains changes towards the southern end of the route. Minor stations beyond Lübbenau will have far fewer RE2 trains stopping. The aim is to improve punctuality and ensure on-time arrival in Cottbus, where the RE2 provides onward connections to a number of other services.

RE3 and RE5: north-south regional routes through Berlin

The RE3 and RE5 routes effectively swap destinations south of Berlin.

RE3 trains from Stralsund and Schwedt via Eberswalde to Berlin will pick up the old RE5 route south of the city and continue to either Lutherstadt Wittenberg or Falkenberg. This route will henceforth be known throughout as RE3. Some services will be extended beyond Falkenberg to Elsterwerda-Biehla.

RE5 trains from Rostock or Stralsund via Neustrelitz to Berlin will pick up the old RE3 route south of the city and continue to Wünsdorf Waldstadt and beyond. This route will henceforth be known throughout as RE5.

RB12: Templin to Berlin Lichtenberg / Ostkreuz

Deutsche Bahn’s red trains will be seen for the last time in Templin on Saturday 12 December 2015. On Sunday a new operator, NEB (short for Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn), takes over the RB12 and the route will be extended beyond Lichtenberg to Ostkreuz.

RB19: Berlin Gesundbrunnen to Senftenberg

This Regionalbahn service is withdrawn after Saturday 12 December. South of Königs Wusterhausen it is replaced by the new RE24 (see below). The withdrawal of the RB19 means that two Berlin stations – Potsdamer Platz and Gesundbrunnen – lose their hourly direct link with Schönefeld Airport.

RB20: Oranienburg to Potsdam

This regional rail link, which follows the western part of the Aussenring (Outer Ring), receives a big boost. It remains a route which will operate only Mondays to Fridays, but the number of regional trains leaving Oranienburg for Potsdam leaps from seven to sixteen, giving an hourly service throughout the day.

RB24: Eberswalde to Senftenberg

This is an important new regional link connecting communities in north-east and south-east Brandenburg, skirting the eastern part of the city of Berlin and serving the new regional station at Ostkreuz along the way. It will run hourly in each direction, seven days each week.

RB25: Werneuchen to Berlin Lichtenberg / Ostkreuz

This route, which is operated by NEB, is now extended beyond Lichtenberg to Ostkreuz.

IRE Berlin to Hamburg

The budget inter-regional express service from the German capital to Hamburg sees minor changes. Trains will now start and end at Berlin Ostbahnhof and run over the Stadtbahn. This means they will now use the upper-level platforms at Hauptbahnhof and will also stop at Zoo station.

The morning train to Hamburg and the late afternoon return service from Hamburg to Berlin will now be available for passengers travelling only between Berlin and Rathenow (and vice-versa). The IRE trains have been until now barred for local journeys of this kind. The new arrangements give some fast new headline journey times from Berlin stations to Rathenow (eg. 22 minutes from Berlin Spandau to Rathenow, which is just half the time taken by the regular RE4 trains for the same stretch).

Night trains from Lichtenberg

Our focus in this article has been very much on changes to regional rail services in and around Berlin, and many of those changes affect Lichtenberg station. With the new schedules, Lichtenberg loses many of its regular night sleeper departures. The overnight service to Munich is axed completely. The City Night Line service from Berlin to Zürich remains, but will henceforth no longer serve Lichtenberg. The train will now start and end in Berlin Gesundbrunnen.

From Sunday 13 December 2015, the only international departures from Lichtenberg will be a thrice-weekly overnight service to Paris and a thrice-weekly departure for Minsk and Moscow.

Time to spare?

Each batch of new timetables throw up unusual services. Pick of the bunch in the new schedules for the Berlin area is an early-bird Intercity train which gives a direct link from Potsdam Hauptbahnhof to Berlin Südkreuz. IC 61447 leaves Potsdam at 05.07 in the morning. The short journey to Südkreuz takes 1 hr 55 mins, surely making this the slowest train in the new timetables. It is the only scheduled train of the day linking the two stations. It continues to Dresden and Prague. It is, we think, the first time for some years that an international destination has featured on the departure boards in Potsdam.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
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About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 17th edition of that book was published in 2022 and reprinted in July 2023. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.


jonathan, 15 December 2015

About the IC 61447: This train runs from Köln to berlin in combination with the EN447 sleeper train from Köln to Warsaw, as well as the CNL service to Praha. When it gets to berlin there is a problem because half of it needs to head east while the half needs to head south. Furthermore, unlike most large stations Berlin Hbf has absolutely no facilities for shunting. So the solution I believe DB uses, which explains the apparent very long running time, is to bring the train from potsdam to the Berlin Hbf high level platforms, at this point the portion for Praha is detached at the rear and and reverses back to the ring, round it and finally back into the deep level platforms at the very same station, ready to head to Dresden via Südkreuz.

Kal, 15 December 2015

I am not a train enthusiast but the loss of rb19 Schonefeld to gesundbrunnen means I now have to use the airport express or s45/s9. I could not find out what happened to rb19 until I came across this article by chance. The service vanished off travel apps and websites without any explanations. Good job someone cares enough to write on these things.

Marcus, 13 December 2015

Very Good article. A nice summary and I have not seen anything so good as an overview in Berlin newspapers. You are right about the absence these past years of international trains from Potsdam. I think the last international departure was the EC Wawel to Krakow, but that was some years ago. It used to run via Golm, Potsdam and Wannsee into Berlin, but was then re-routed through Spandau, leaving Potsdam with no link to Poland.

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