|Line length||19.6 km|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Stations and structures|
The Ländches Railway (German: Ländchesbahn) is a single non-electrified branch railway line between Wiesbaden and Niedernhausen, Germany. The 19.6-kilometre (12.2 mi) long line was opened in July 1879 by the Hessian Ludwig Railway. It is now Deutsche Bahn Route 627 and Route 21 of the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund.
The route originally began at the Ludwig Station (Ludwigsbahnhof) on Rheinstrasse in Wiesbaden, near the Taunus Station. In 1906, this station (as well as the Taunus Station) were replaced with the current Wiesbaden Central Station (Hauptbahnhof). The route now begins on the west side of the Central Station and crosses, in the vicinity of the Hammermühle, the tracks to and from Wiesbaden-East and Wiesbaden-Biebrich. Originally, a freight line from Wiesbaden-East paralled the Ländchesbahn from this overpass to the Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Erbenheim, so that the two-way tracks were side by side on the same embankment, almost to the Erbenheim passenger station. In 2002 the freight route was closed and the section from the Wiesbaden Central Station to shortly before Erbenheim was used for the Cologne–Frankfurt high-speed rail line. This section, covering relatively flat terrain in the Wäschbach valley, is now double-tracked and electrified.
From Wiesbaden-Erbenheim, the route goes through the Ländchen, from which it takes its name. The elevation rises steadily to the north. North of the Wiesbaden-Auringen/Medenbach station, the line passes underneath the Cologne–Frankfurt HSL and then enters the 197-metre (646 ft) long "Grauer-Stein" Tunnel beneath Bundesautobahn 3 and Bundesstraße 455. This tunnel is at a high point of the Taunus and marks the highest elevation of the line. The elevation drops towards Niedernhausen, the endpoint of the original line. In Niedernhausen, the Ländchesbahn merges between the tracks of the Main-Lahn railway, allowing the trains to change between the routes without difficulty.
The relatively short route is used primarily by commuter traffic and is therefore serviced by multiple unit, or MU, trainsets (i.e. self-propelled carriages). After World War II, these MUs have been mainly Series ETA-176 battery-powered railcars based in Limburg. In principle, all trains stopped at every station along the route. Only express traffic from Limburg to Wiesbaden travelled non-stop between Niedernhausen and Wiesbaden. During low traffic, single-railcar trips on the Ländchesbahn are extended from Niedernhausen to Limburg. With the introduction of clock schedules (trains scheduled at the same times every hour) on the Main-Lahn railway, the connecting traffic on the Ländchesbahn was also systematized.
In the 1970s, an MU pair travelled a route from Au on the Sieg (in Windeck) to Mainz on the Ländchesbahn, connecting the Westerwald with the capital cities of Wiesbaden and Mainz. In the 1990s, an additional stop was set up at the Rhine-Main Theater between Auringen-Medenbach and Niedernhausen. However, since the musical establishment no longer operates, this stop has been discontinued. For a time, direct theater-trains operated from Frankfurt Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) via Niedernhausen to the Rhine-Main Theater.
Since 2004, the traffic on the Ländchesbahn has been exclusively LINT railcars, operated by the Vectus company of Limburg an der Lahn. Since the founding of the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the distance has been integrated into the RMV uniform tariff.
Grauer Stein tunnel reconstruction
As constructed in 1878, the Grauer Stein tunnel was 197 metres (646 ft) long with a maximum roof cover of 20 m (66 ft). Originally designed as a double-track tunnel, only one track traversed the tunnel from the very beginning.
By 1998, the structure had become severely damaged by decades of dynamic stress from the overhead road traffic and by the chemical effects of seepage water and highway salt. The tunnel was therefore completely renovated from 1998 to 2000. The large size of the tunnel cross-section, and the fact that the single-track use was planned to continue in the future, made it possible to construct a new reinforced-concrete inner tube inside the old sandstone arch. The New Austrian Tunnelling method (NATM) was used. To be able to keep the tunnel open to workday railroad traffic, the repairs had to be performed during operational breaks at night and on weekends. To do this, the floor and arch were constructed in 8-metre (26 ft) sections.
Although the Ländchesbahn connects the Hessian state capital with important suburbs, traffic on it has remained below expectations. Critics attribute this to three main causes:
1. The route is not laid out efficiently. First, it is not straight, but runs in a wide arc. It leaves Wiesbaden Central Station toward the south even though the destination, Niedernhausen, is located to the northeast. Secondly, it does not connect to major sources and destinations of commuter traffic. For example, Wiesbaden Central Station is south of the city centre, the station in the borough of Medenbach lies in the far north of the town, and the important administrative centre of Bierstadt is by-passed entirely.
2. The route is only in operation in the evening until 8:30 p.m. This means that visitors to events in central Wiesbaden and Mainz must take time-consuming detours via Frankfurt or use buses of the ESWE (Wiesbaden's public transit system) instead.
3. All stations and stops along the route are also located on ESWE bus routes that offer frequent direct connections to and from downtown Wiesbaden. Although the travel time to the centre by bus is longer than by train, many commuters prefer the bus service.
The introduction of a regional rail system in Wiesbaden (after the Karlsruhe model) has been discussed, which would include the Ländchesbahn. Those plans were at an advanced stage, but have been frozen after a change of political majorities. It would still be some time at any rate until any changes would be made.
- Project description, Alpine Bau Deutschland AG company website. Retrieved on 2008-01-02.
- This article incorporates text translated from the corresponding German Wikipedia article as of 2009-01-04.