The Vogtlandbahn is a private railway company in Germany, which runs diesel trains on regional lines in the states of Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Berlin and as well as routes into the Czech Republic. Vogtlandbahn is owned by Ferrovie dello Stato and the Luxembourg infrastructure fund Cube, through the German holding company of Netinera.
After German Reunification in 1990, there was a sharp drop in passenger numbers on the rail network in all the new Bundesländer. Saxony, and thus Vogtland was no exception. The railways had old locomotives rolling stock and couldn't compete with the rapidly improving roads. The Saxony government invested in an attempt to improve the attractiveness of the Zwickau–Falkenstein–Klingenthal line and the Herlasgrün–Falkenstein–Adorf (Kursbuchstrecke 539). The track was relaid to an 80 km/h standard, disabled access was facilitated at all stations and new stations opened. Maintenance and tracks were rationalised. Some platforms were removed, some stations such as Schöneck were restyled as simple halts.
To renew passenger confidence, new trainsets were bought and the timetables changed to allow easier connections between services and operators. In September 1994 it was privatised, going to the Regental-Bahnbetriebs-GmbH, a company from Viechtach, Bavaria. In January 1998 it came under the ownership of the Länderbahn group. So in contrast to their former owners the Deutsche Bahn AG, these invested in the company's future. In 1998, the company built their own workshops in Neumark, which were opened in July 2000. The old sheds in Reichenbach were no longer needed.
A further success is the extension of the network into Zwickau town centre. Following the example set by the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn, the lines extend from Zwickau Hauptbahnhof ("Main Railway Station") to the central markets. As most of the Vogtland network has not been electrified, the train-trams do not use current from the tramwires (as in Karlsruhe) but are driven by diesel engines. Between the Hauptbahnhof and Stadthall there was a link that could be reactivated. From there to Zentrum the train and the tram use the same tracks. To do this, dual-gauge track has been laid; there are three rails, the tram uses metre gauge (1000 mm), and the Vogtlandbahn uses standard gauge (1435 mm). An extra rail was laid next to the tram line so that they share one rail and each use one of the others as appropriate.
In the years that followed the Vogtlandbahn had many opportunities to bid for further routes to expand its network. From their core routes in the Vogtland they moved over into Bavaria and Thuringia, with lines to Hof, Schleiz and Gera. When the Czech Republic became a candidate for European Union membership a new market opened. In 2000, after a 55-year gap, the Zwickau–Klingenthal line was reconnected to Kraslice (Graslitz). In 2003 it connected to Sokolov (Falkenau) on the Czech Egertalbahn.
On 14 December 2003 the Vogtlandbahn secured an agreement with DB Regio AG to use the Gera–Weida–Zeulenroda–Mehltheuer line and thus started a general traffic service on the Elstertalbahn between Gera, Greiz and Weischlitz, which previously had required a change.
Following the extension of the Zwickau–Plauen–Bad Brambach line over the Czech border to Cheb (Eger) and thus Marktredwitz in Bavaria, the Plauen-Hof service was extended through Marktredwitz and Weiden (10 June 2001) to Regensburg (15 December 2002).
In the timetable changes of 8 December 2006 the Vogtlandbahn lost the Schönberg Schleiz route in Thuringia. An agreement with DB Regio Oberfranken in December 2006 allowed the Vogtlandbahn to run (Hof–) Münchberg-Helmbrechts and Lichtenfels–Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg, alongside the Deutsche Bahn, providing the regional services.
Finally, in autumn 2004 Bavaria sold its final stake in the Länderbahn to the British-owned Arriva group, who already owned the Prignitz railway in Brandenburg. This made them the second largest railway company in Germany. After Arriva was bought by Deutsche Bahn in 2010, the business had to be resold from competition reasons. The new owners are the Italian state railways (Ferrovie dello Stato) together with Luxembourg infrastructure fund Cube. The German parent company since March 2011 is called Netinera.
|Munich Hbf – Landshut Hbf – Regensburg Hbf – Schwandorf –
/ Weiden – Marktredwitz – Hof Hbf
/ Furth im Wald – Plzeň – Prague
|318/443 km||16/16||9 December 2007|
|Munich Hbf – Buchloe – Kempten Hbf – Immenstadt –
/ Hergatz – Lindau Hbf
|172/221 km||17/14||9 December 2007|
|VE 16||Werdau – Reichenbach ob Bf – Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Mehltheuer – Hof||86 km||18||Werdau – Reichenbach ob Bf: 9 December 2012
Reichenbach ob Bf – Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf: 13 October 1996
Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Hof Hbf: 28 May 2000
|VL 1||Zwickau Zentrum – Zwickau (Sachs) Hbf – Lengenfeld – Auerbach – Falkenstein – Zwotental – Klingenthal – Kraslice||73 km||23||Zwickau Hbf – Klingenthal: 23. November 1997
Zwickau Zentrum – Zwickau Hbf: 28 May 1999
Klingenthal – Kraslice: 28 May 2000
|VL 2||Zwickau (Sachs) Hbf – Reichenbach ob Bf – Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Mehltheuer – Hof||96 km||20||Zwickau Hbf – Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf: 13 October 1996
Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Hof Hbf: 28 May 2000
|VL 3||Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Weischlitz – Adorf – Bad Brambach – Cheb||75 km||19||Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Bad Brambach: 13 October 1996
Bad Brambach – Cheb: 28 May 2000
|VL 4||Gera Hbf – Greiz – Elsterberg – Plauen unt Bf – Weischlitz (Elster Valley Railway)||62 km||19||Partial: 1 July 2002
Complete: 14 December 2003
|VL 5||Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Herlasgrün – Auerbach – Falkenstein||38 km||9||Plauen (Vogtl) ob Bf – Falkenstein: 23 November 1997|
|VB 3||Marktredwitz – Wiesau – Altenstadt (Waldnaab) – Weiden – Nabburg – Schwandorf – Regensburg Hbf||138 km||25||Hof Hbf – Weiden: 10 June 2001
Weiden – Regensburg Hbf: 15 December 2002
Hof Hbf - Marktredwitz: until 9 December 2012
|Marktredwitz – Schirnding – Cheb||27 km||5||28 May 2000|
|Plauen (Vogtl)ob Bf – Zwickau (Sachs) Hbf – Chemnitz Hbf – Riesa – Berlin Schönefeld Airport – Berlin Hbf – Berlin Zoologischer Garten||326 km||14||12 June 2005; closed on 16. February 2009; resumed on 8 April 2009; closed again on 1 October 2012; since then by bus|
|Liberec (CZ) – Zittau – Varnsdorf – Rybniště/ Seifhennersdorf||56/50 km||17/14||12 December 2010|
The trains on the Lines VB 1 and VB 5 from Zwickau and Hof-Plauen meet at Falkenstein station where they are coupled together to make one train. They travel coupled to Zwotental, where they are separated and continue their journey to Kraslice and Adorf respectively. This is said to give twice as much capacity on the popular Falkenstein–Zwotental section. There is also a cost saving.
Half the trainsets on Line VB 2, those that terminate at Adorf, are of the "RegioSprinter" type. They are light enough to run as tram-trains into Zwickau town centre. The trains from Zwickau to Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) are the heavier "Desiro" train sets, not suitable to be used on the tram tracks through Zwickau town centre; so they start and terminate at the Hauptbahnhof. Consequently, since 12 December 2004, there has been an hourly service on the core route between Zwickauer Hauptbahnhof and Adorf, and a two-hourly service on the extended route from Zwickau Zentrum to Adorf, and a two-hourly service from Zwickau Hbf to Mariánské Lázně.
The company decided in the beginning to use RegioSprinter class of light train from Duewag that had already been ordered from the Dürener Kreisbahn. Firstly this was a series of 6 and then a further series of 10. Between 1998 and 1999, the second series were rebuilt so they could be used on the Zwickau train-tram lines, for example: brakelights, indicators and warning bells were needed. They needed switch equipment to activate the traffic lights to ensure a safe uninterrupted passage. In January 2004 the rest were converted. RegioSprinters were only suilable for short journeys, they had thinly uppolstered seats in a 2+3 formation and no toilets, their top speed was 100 km/h, though later all the trains crossing the Czech border were refitted to a higher standard. RegioSprinters were used on VB 1, VB 5, VB 2 and until December 2006 VB 7, the line from Schönberg to Schleiz. Two of these trains were lent on a long term basis to the Prignitzer Eisenbahn for use around Oberhausen.
As the network expanded and trains were needed for longer journeys, 9 trains of the Desiro Classic class were bought in 2000 from Siemens Transportation Systems. These ran on the Deutsche Bahn route DBAG 642. These were comfortable trains with good upholstery with seat in a 2+2 formation, in the first class compartment the seats were in a 1+2 formation. Desiros were fitted with on-board ticket machines and ski racks. A second series of 15 were ordered in 2002. The first series were fitted with two 275 kW motors and the second series had two 315 kW motors and wheelchair friendly access. Desiros are used on VB 3, VB 3, VB 4 und VB 5 and on the Vogtland Express.
In 2003, the Bayerische Eisenbahngesellschaft (which subsidised regional services in Bavaria) awarded the franchise to Regentalbahn (operating as Die Länderbahn, that is "the State Railway") for operating the Allgäu Express (ALEX) on the Munich – Kempten – Lindau route every two hours. This service is operated jointly with Swiss Federal Railways. In the autumn of 2004, Regentalbahn was taken over by the British transport company Arriva and the name ALEX was given the new meaning of Arriva-Länderbahn-Express. In 2005, Regentalbahn also gained the franchise for operating a regional express service with a 2-hour frequency from Munich through Regensburg to Schwandorf, also branded as ALEX. There the trains alternate on a four hour frequency to Hof or Furth im Wald. Since the takeover by Ferrovie dello Stato in 2010, this service is called simply alex.
The Vogtlandbahn bought 90 used carriages for this service and had them modernised by the Ausbesserungswerk at Weiden. They were hauled by eleven new diesel locomotives of the EuroRunner class of Siemens Transportation Systems, that were leased from Angel Trains. For the electrified section from Munich to Regensburg four EuroSprinter class locomotives were leased from Siemens Dispolok.
On 12. June 2005 Vogtlandbahn started its first long distance service. Once a day a train ran from Plauen to Berlin and back. The Vogtland-Express started early in the morning in Plauen and passed through Reichenbach, Werdau, Altenburg, Leipzig Hbf and Berlin Schönefeld Airport to its terminus, Berlin-Lichtenberg. In the evening it returned to Plauen. Travel time was about three and a half hours of which half an hour is needed to pass through the Berlin suburbs. Then in autumn 2005 the route was extended to Hof, giving a connection to north east Bayern. The train routes through Berlin on the Berliner Stadtbahn have been subject to much modernisation, so the Vogtland Express moved it Berlin stations in summer 2006. In 2007, engineering works at Leipzig meant a change of route through Zwickau, Chemnitz and Riesa. This service was pitched for business travellers and day trippers. It left a period of about eight hours in Berlin between arrival and departure. The ticket price was 30% lower than on Deutsche Bahn though a lot slower.
In the spring of 2009 the Vogtland-Express was replaced by buses for two months and in 10 January 2011 services were replaced by a bus service, due to a shortage of Desiro diesel multiple units. The ETS bus ran from Reichenbach (Vogtland) via Zwickau (Sachs) Hbf, Chemnitz Hbf and Berlin-Schönefeld Flughafen to Berlin Zoologischer Garten. From June to September 2012 trains ran from Fridays to Mondays, with buses on other days. Since 1 October 2012, the Vogtland-Express has run daily only as a long-distance bus service from Reichenbach im Vogtland via Zwickau, Chemnitz, Berlin-Schönefeld Airport station, Berlin Zoo to the Berlin central bus station at the Funkturm Berlin and back.
- Pressemitteilung (Deutsche Bahn, 8. Dezember 2006): „Regio Oberfranken kooperiert mit der Vogtlandbahn“Regio Oberfranken cooperates with the Vogtlandbahn (PDF-file; 76,7 KB)
- "Current route map" (in German). Vogtlandbahn. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Line map" (PDF, 1.090 KB) (in German). Trilex. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Vogtland-Express ab 01.10.2012 als Linienbus" (in German). Vogtlandbahn. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- Today's Railways Europe (203): 49. November 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vogtlandbahn.|
- Official website (German)