June 12th, 2005: Reopening celebration for the Dissen/Bad Rothenfelde – Osnabrück track.
"Haller Willem": Rail transit for 1.4 million $ per mile
In addition to a mainline connection, the German cities Bielefeld and Osnabrück are connected by a rural singletrack line, parts of which are quite curvy and steep. Reason for the unfavourable alignment are cost cutting attempts of the 19th century. The line touches the town of Halle, known to tennis fans for the Gerry Weber Open. It is named "Haller Willem", after an operator of team and coach, Wilhelm Struckemeyer, who had his business on this line before inauguration of the railroad in 1886, and was widely known for his humour and ~200 kg weight.
The line was built to lower standards than the mainlines around, and did not receive similar improvements towards higher speed and less labour. Until closure, barriers at level crossings were still cranked mechanically, using technology of the early 20th century. Due to the crewing requirements, the railroad tried to get rid of the line. The number of passenger trains was reduced below usefulness. In 1984, the rest of the passenger traffic was bustituted.
More precisely: one half of the "Haller Willem" was bustituted. Within the former West Germany, the state of Niedersachsen has the worst public transport system off the main routes. The abandonment of one half of the "Haller Willem", the part located in Niedersachsen, followed common traffic policy standards within that state.
The other half of the route, Bielefeld – Dissen/Bad Rothenfelde, located in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, limped along with low amounts of traffic, but closure wasn't accepted. Instead, a contract protecting the line was signed by state and railroad, and in the late 1990s, a modernization project improved that part of the route to modern standards. Success followed quickly: While the passenger figure used to be 1500 per day, this changed to 3400 in 2004, and is increasing further.
Looking at the success of the neighbours, even the state of Niedersachsen finally decided in favour of reactivation – at a time, when small trees started to grow in the track. The reactivation project, Dissen/Bad Rothenfelde – Osnabrück, closed the gap between the state border and Osnabrück-Hörne, where this secondary track joins into a mainline. Part of the reactivation was modern, remote controlled or train operated signal and level crossing equipment, bringing the infrastructure operating costs down to modern standards as well.
As it is normal in Germany and several other EU countries, the trains aren't operated by the infrastructure owner. After bidding, and until 2013, the subsidy for operation was contracted to the Nordwestbahn, an operator owned by Connex and the cities of Osnabrück and Oldenburg. Unlike USA practice, the operator gets a fixed amount of money, unless penalized for not fulfilling the contracted quality standards. Subsidized operation does not outrule high profit or bankruptcy – despite the subsidy, success depends on performance.
|Length of reactivated track||22.848 km|
|Line opened||August 15th, 1886|
|Closed for passenger traffic||June 2nd, 1984|
|Passenger train average speed, 1983||43 km/h|
|Trains per direction per day, 1983||4, 3 on weekends1|
|Passengers per day, 1983|
|Closed for freight traffic||1991|
|Track leased by VLO2||January 1st, 2000|
|Lease timeframe||30 years|
|Yearly lease||1 DM (€ 0.51)|
|Total reactivation cost||€ 16.3 million3|
|Cost/km||€ 0.71 million|
|VLO funds, recovered from track access price||20%|
|New rails + ties, ballast cleaning, some subgrade repairs||€ 9.7 million|
|Cost/km||€ 0.42 million|
|Max. axleload||20t4 (44092 lbs)|
|Level crossings eliminated||8|
|Pedestrian crossings, set of railings||4|
|Level crossings upgraded||23|
|Level crossing improvements||€ 3.4 million|
|Signal system/box, automatic train stop||€ 0.9 million|
|Stations built, at old or new location||5|
|Of these, with passing track||1|
|Platform length||110 m|
|Platform width||3.5 m|
|Platform height||76 cm|
|Average cost per station5||€ 100000|
|Train timing Dissen – Osnabrück Hbf||31 – 32 minutes|
|Bus timing Dissen – Osnabrück||50 minutes|
|Line speed||80 km/h|
|Average stop distance||4.4 km|
|Average speed||50 km/h|
|Weekday memory schedule||Hourly, 18 train pairs|
|Saturday||17 train pairs|
|Sunday||11 train pairs|
|Forecast: Max. ridership with halfhourly traffic||3600 / day|
|First weeks of operation||800–900 / day|
|4 months later||1700 / day|
1 The number of trains is best explained as a measure to support line closure. Some years before, it was higher, though there never was an attempt towards memory schedule or similar modern traffic concepts.
2 VLO = Verkehrsgesellschaft Landkreis Osnabrück (Osnabrück County Traffic Society, a local public transport company in public ownership).
3 This is the planned figure – not every detail of the project has been finished yet. It is expected, that the final amount will be slightly lower.
4 Old bridges still passed the check at this value. The track could support a higher figure.
5 Station costs include the platform with access ramp, video and loudspeakers with central control, travel information board, bus stop shelter, seats, (lights ?).