This article first appeared in the Railway-News magazine, Issue 2 2023.
By Dr Carsten Wiebers Global Head of Mobility at KfW IPEX-Bank
The Heidekrautbahn regional railway line in Berlin and Brandenburg that is operated by Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB), will be improved, modernised and expanded.
In the upcoming years, NEB will reactivate the trunk line of the Heidekrautbahn network. The trunk line from northern Berlin to the beautiful Schorfheide will be restored in full. The line was severely damaged in WWII and the connection was completely severed when the Berlin Wall was built. Eight new stations from Berlin-Wilhelmsruh to Basdorf will be reopened to passenger service in 2024. The diesel trains currently in use will be replaced by seven low-noise, emission-free hydrogen trains. The upgrade and expansion of the Heidekrautbahn network are part of a broader effort to improve the transport infrastructure in the region.
The Mireo Plus H trains from Siemens Mobility are equipped with a fuel cell drive and a lithium-ion battery. These second-generation hydrogen trains deliver zerocarbon mobility. They will transport passengers not only faster and cleaner than before, but also climate-neutrally in the future.
Hydrogen technology plays a key role due to the existing renewable energy supply in Brandenburg. To produce the required green hydrogen locally, a hydrogen plant is being built near the railway. The electricity required for this is to be generated entirely within the region from wind and solar. It is a joint project: the project developer ENERTRAG is responsible for the construction of the hydrogen plant – one part of the hydrogen infrastructure. The NEB will commission the hydrogen-powered trains on the line, and Kreiswerke Barnim will construct an H2 filling station – the other part of the hydrogen infrastructure. These new trains will save around 1.1 million litres of diesel annually, equivalent to potential savings of around 3,310t of CO2 or the CO2 absorption of 120,000 trees when green hydrogen is used.
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