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Interchange made easy in Bremen

By C.J. Wansbeek

In March 1999, this magazine described the tramway expansion under way in Bremen, the port city in northern Germany. In 1998 no fewer than four tramway extensions were inaugurated, giving Bremen something of an expansion record. The operator BSAG, under the energetic leadership of former Karlsruhe engineer Georg Drechsler, is now drawing up plans for future through operation between railway and tramway systems, to give customers a direct ride into the city centre.

Most Bremen tram routes converge in front of the stylish red-brick Hbf (main station), with its never-ending stream of passenger trains, including high-speed ICEs to other German cities. In May 1999 BSAG completed work on a DEM 61 million revamp of the tram station in the rail station forecourt, to make it the stylish hub of an integrated system. This met the express wishes of local politicians for an emphatic statement at one of the most important gateways to the city.

Trams now glide to a stop under steel-framed shelters with glass roofs, built right in front of the railway station. The steel structures are a light filigree and the glass conveys an atmosphere of lightness and safety. The tram platforms vary in width between four and 5.5 metres, and all are equipped with dynamic passenger information displays showing real time information on the next arrivals. In the middle of the tram station is a service kiosk for ticket sales and passenger information.

Some 200 trees have been planted around the rebuilt area to provide some green relief from the glass and steel. The walkways have been laid out in small grey cobblestones, while the tram tracks are laid in anthracite-coloured paving. The construction of the tram station required a complete relay of the tram tracks through the area, including the total remodelling of the tracks crossing Breitenweg/Bürgermeister-Smidt-Strasse. All this was carried out while a full service was maintained through the area.

Construction work took 12 months in total. The interchange will complement the regeneration of the Bremen Hbf area, where there will be a new exhibition complex and shopping centre called Obermaxx. German Rail (DB) is investing heavily in a programme to upgrade its 15 leading stations, and Bremen Hbf was selected as the first to receive a complete face lift. This will include construction of a new pedestrian underpass. So the whole complex will be very much the business card for Bremen. DB is lifting tracks in the adjacent disused freight yard to permit the construction of highrise offices and a 170-space short-term car park. Within five minutes of Hbf, car parks exist for another 1200 cars. A secure bicycle park offers safe and dry storage for 600 cycles; only those with a long memory would recognise the former Second World War air-raid shelter. The tram station also gives easy interchange to some city bus routes, replacing the former lengthy walk between four different termini, while adjacent is the regional bus station. The rebirth of the Hbf area, including the tram station, can be followed on the Bremen internet site

The author thanks Herr Brünjes of BSAG for assistance in the preparation of this article.

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