The Hamburg–Altona–Kiel railway (Danish: Christian VIII. Østersø Jernbane) is the oldest railway line in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Today, it connects Hamburg, Neumünster and Kiel. It is one of the first railways in Germany. When it opened in 1844, Altona and Kiel were the largest cities in the Duchy of Holstein. The line is now owned by DB Netz.
Further north in Neumünster the line connects to Flensburg, to Heide and Büsum and to Bad Oldesloe. Freight and express trains to Scandinavia do not continue towards Kiel, but instead run on the continuously electrified line from Neumünster to the Danish border at Flensburg. Regional services run from Kiel to Lübeck and to Flensburg.
The line was built by the Altona-Kiel Railway Company (Altona-Kieler Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft, AKE). Construction commenced in 1842 and the line opened on 18 September 1844. The company’s operations were taken over by the Prussian state railways in 1884.
The opening of the Hamburg-Altona link line in 1866 made it possible for the first time for trains from Kiel to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. However, the facilities at Kiel could not handle main line trains suitable for operations to Hamburg. Moreover the older residents of Holstein preferred to travel to the Holstein town of Altona, rather than the "big city" of Hamburg.
On 24 September 1995, the 109 kilometre long line was put into electric operations. The travel time between Hamburg and Kiel was shortened by up to 38 minutes. For the first time, two pairs of Intercity-Express trains served Kiel daily.
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- Track data from Eisenbahnatlas Deutschland (German railway atlas) (2007/2008 edition ed.). Schweers + Wall. 2007. ISBN 978-3-89494-136-9.