Disused railway lines: rails in deep sleep

When the train has left forever: Soft green runs over the railroad tracks, nature prevails against gravel and steel. Awakening rusty rails from their slumber is time-consuming and expensive.
Image: dpa, Markus Kaufhold

Reviving railway lines shut down for climate protection: The idea inspires in many places. But reactivating rails is tough work that takes years. Or the idea fails – because the train has left forever.

Dhe resistance comes from a corner for which rail traffic is generally a green revelation. In Wuppertal, cyclists are raising the mood against the fact that the “Rheinische Bahn”, which has been shut down since the 1990s, is back into operation. That is “ecologically not sensible”, it is said rather surprisingly in the citizen’s initiative “Wuppertal Movement”. The judgment is not entirely unselfish. Because the “Nordbahntrasse” with tunnels and viaducts across densely populated parts of the city has long been freed from the rails. It was expanded to become a model cycle path, and five years ago it was even awarded the German Bicycle Prize.

Rather than a cycle path, there is always a clear announcement and rejection elsewhere. But there is also enthusiasm for old tracks. For example in the district of Calw in the northern Black Forest. The new edition of the 37-year-old train connection from Calw via the neighboring village of Weil der Stadt to Renningen in the Stuttgart S-Bahn network even has a name: it will be the “Hermann-Hesse-Bahn”, as it will start – probably from 2023 an – in the birthplace of the world-famous writer. A municipal association takes on the role of operator and is already doing stylish PR appearances on the Internet in the construction phase that has already started. The new route will be shorter than the old one. A new tunnel is under construction that will eliminate a four-kilometer detour from the former route.