At the beginning of 1990s, German railway network on Usedom island its administrator proposed to liquidate. The cost of operation exceeded the declining revenues from transport, the rolling stock and infrastructure were neglected and motorization in area of former East Germany grew rapidly. Finally, the traffic on ferry crossing connecting island with the continent was also interrupted. However, local authorities and the community strongly protested against liquidation and proposed implementation of a recovery plan, called the Usedom Project (“Uzedom”). Has this plan been bull’s eye and how does railway transport look like on Usedom island? We’ll talk about this in this episode. Let’s watch! Ralway on Usedom island Usedom is a coastal island lying on border between Poland and Germany. It has almost 450 square kilometers, of which over 80% belong to Germany. We can compare the surface of island to the largest cities in Poland – it is one-third larger than Krakow and a dozen or so percent smaller than Warsaw. However, the area is inhabited by significantly fewer people, for a total of about 77,000. The island has an average of 1906 hours of sunshine per year, which gives the best result in the regions in Germany and Poland. For this reason, it is also called the island of the Sun. And indeed, during my stay most of the time it was sunny. 😉 This fact, plus the 110-kilometer coastline along the Baltic Sea, resulted in Uznam being a popular holiday destination. Numerous tourists appearing here in the season required provision of efficient transport along the island and an alternative to the growing car traffic on two-lane roads on island. The alternative in transport of people is nowadays railway network being part of Usedomer Baderbahn – Usedom Coastal Railway and next we will be using German abbreviation UBB. Railway lines on island have a total length of over 54 kilometers. The main route connects the Świnoujście Centrum station with Wolgast. On this route, in small Zinnowitz near Wolgast begins a section with the track to Peenemünde. Lines are adapted for trains moving at speeds of up to 80 km/h. The main line, apart from adapting to regional traffic service, can also be used for long-distance trains. The station in Heringsdorf has an extended 310 meter long platform. Once, there were even connections from Berlin, about 250 kilometers away. However, is it still possible to travel by train from the island of Usedom to Berlin? Closest to island connecting point of UBB network with national railway network in Germany is the station in Züssow, a town located on the mainland, 18 kilometers from Wolgast. In this place there are, among others, DB Regio trains going to Berlin and Stralsund. Getting with a change to Berlin is therefore possible. What’s more, the connections are communicated with each other – the UBB train came to the station earlier and then waited for passengers coming by DB trains from both directions of traffic. Currently, however, more than half of the UBB trains travel from Świnoujście to Stralsund in the season, while the others finish much earlier, mostly in Wolgast, so now important is only connection to Berlin. Is this timetable synchronization also similar on island section of track to Peenemünde? What do you think? Naturally in this case it could not be otherwise. Departures on both lines are synchronized with each other here. Train arriving from the side of Świnoujście provides the possibility of transferring to the train at the station in Zinnowitz in the direction of Peenemünde. On this route, departures take place every hour. I have not mentioned you all about the frequency on the baseline – here we also have departures every hour, but during the tourist season, schedule during the day is expanded and there are periods of day when departures take place every half hour. Did UBB trains have always ended route in Świnoujście? Railway connection between Świnoujście and rest of island existed already in the 19th century. However, during World War II, the city was bombed and railway infrastructure was partially destroyed. Restoration of connection with rest of island has also become a political problem, because under the provisions of Potsdam Agreement, Świnoujście has passed from German to Polish hands. A few years after the war, existing connection was finally demolished. An opportunity to restore connection of German part of island with Polish part was entry of Poland into European Union and so-called “opening of borders”. Immediately in this area, cross-border traffic increased, which became the driving force to extend railway line further from Ahlbeck Grenze stop. The new, nearly 1.5-kilometer section to the Świnoujście Centrum station was opened in 2008. This terminal station is located approximately 1.5 kilometers from ferries connection in city center that you have already known from other episode. In Świnoujście we will not experience a permanent train connection to other shore of Świna, but is there any permanent rail connection with the mainland on the other side of the island of Usedom? We are moving back to the 2000, when a milestone was made for a permanent rail connection with the mainland. The single-wing road-railway drawbridge in Wolgast was then opened. The crossing has its own schedule and specific lifting times, which provides water vessels with a further possibility of sailing by Peene – a strait joining Baltic Sea, among others with Zalew Szczeciński. The bridge provided the possibility of further development of railway network and extension of line to Stralsund. However, before the bridge was built, the wagons were transported by rail-ferry. A souvenir of the old days in Wolgast remained steam railway ferry Stralsund moored at the wharf. Before World War II, the ferry operated even in Świnoujście, providing transport to the other shore of Świna. One or two wagons were carried on board of the ferry that were part of the train connecting Świnoujście with Szczecin. After the war, ferry stations with a track connection were built on both banks of the strait in Wolgast. From that moment, the ferry served freight and passenger traffic. However, the 100-year-old unit in 1990 had to be withdrawn due to the deteriorating technical condition and today the museum of the city of Wolgast operates on its board. At the beginning of 21st century, UBB bought 23 low-floor, diesel GTW 2/6 traction units. Units were built by a consortium of Adtranz, Bombardier and Stadler. Inside, we meet a rather unusual arrangement of 3+2 seats, train space divided into three parts is also interesting. The center member contains motors (it is very loud there) and other parts provide passenger space with control cabins at both ends. 126 passengers will sit on seats in one unit. Inside, a toilet is naturally available, as well as space for bicycles. On most crowded sections railway is served by trains composed of two such units. When it comes to the share of a low floor along the entire length of the vehicle, it is 70%. Before the GTW units appeared on railway, UBB used light railcars of BR 771/971 series. Some of them were combustion wagons and some of them were only control wagons, which had to be connected to the diesel wagon. After delivery of new trains, in 2002 most rail buses of this type were sold to Romania. However, two wagons can still be seen at the train station in Heringsdorf. UBB on Usedom island is not only railway, but also bus transport. Its network is divided into northern region with a transfer point in Wolgast and southern part, among others providing access to railway stops and the city of Usedom (“Uzedom”). These are not frequent connections – usually during the day there are several courses on each line. What future is ahead of railway on Usedom island? The modernization of the infrastructure and the construction of a new connection with Świnoujście – the largest city on island – was surely the driving force. It was also talked about the possibility of connecting the Świnoujście with Heringsdorf airport and then following the former Ducherow – Świnoujście line. Reconstruction of route destroyed during World War II, along with the characteristic bridge raised in Karnin, would allow to shorten travel time between Berlin and Usedom from 4 to about 2 hours. The cost of the reconstruction was estimated at 147 million EUR. However, the report prepared in this case showed the unprofitability of this investment. Railway on island of Usedom is interesting because it is an example of a cross-border railway. The construction of the line and its operation on the Polish side is carried out by a foreign infrastructure manager, which is an unusual situation on the national scale. At the same time, the railway operates on the island and for many years had to bear the consequences when the wagons were crossed by ferries and there was no land connection. Today, the railway operates stably, has a modern fleet, renovated infrastructure and attractive timetable. This seems to be a fairly simple recipe for success, which can take place not only in Germany, but also in Poland, even looking at development of agglomeration rail connections. Meanwhile, thanks for your attention and see you next time. Bye!