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Cathedral of glass houses Berlin's central interchange

01 Sep 2002

AT 04.05 on July 4 a Berlin S-Bahn train bound for Potsdam drew to a halt in Berlin's new Lehrter Bahnhof. Passengers and media representatives were presented with mementos to commemorate the first commercial service to halt at what will surely become Germany's busiest interchange.

Long-distance and regional trains on the east-west Stadtbahn had been passing through the new station since June 21 without stopping while the S-Bahn tracks were slewed on to a new alignment to serve the new platforms.

Built adjacent to the old Stadtbahn station, the new site straddles the Humboldthafen waterway where it joins the River Spree. Across the river is the famous Tiergarten, the Chancellor's office, and the Reichstag; several ministries and other government offices are within a few minutes' walk. The old S-Bahn station is now being dismantled, to be replaced ultimately by commercial premises forming part of a new business district with unrivalled access from much of Germany.

Designed by Gerkan, Marg & Partner of Hamburg, Lehrter Station is already a spectacular landmark on the Berlin skyline. A huge elegantly-curved glass roof spans the east-west tracks over a length of 321m. For the moment there is a gap at the intersection with the north-south tracks, and this will remain open until two glass-fronted commercial buildings are built parallel to the north-south tracks. A low cupola will then be positioned over the central intersection.

Construction of the 16m high roof took just four months. Each of the 23 roof trusses weighs 40 to 50 tonnes, and during construction the structure was held in place by a specially-built framework weighing 3600 tonnes.

Two-level interchange

The high-level part of the station now in operation serves the east-west Stadtbahn. Four tracks flanking two long island platforms will handle up to 260 long-distance and regional services a day, and two tracks on the north side serve a separate island platform for S-Bahn trains.

Around 15m below, eight tracks will be laid on a north-south alignment to handle around 500 regional and long-distance trains a day from 2006. These will include trains from Hannover and Hamburg routed via Spandau over reinstated tracks alongside the northern S-Bahn ring (map p533) to Westhafen to reach Lehrter. Trains from the north, from Rostock, Stralsund and Stettin, will run via Gesundbrunnen, which will become the inter-city gateway for the North Sea ports and resorts.

In an area 80m by 80m at the centre of the station 53 escalators and 14 lifts are being built to ensure that passengers can interchange quickly and easily. Forecasts suggest that 240000 passengers will use Lehrter every day, with 110000 of them changing trains.

Lehrter forms the central hub in Berlin's 'mushroom concept' (RG 6.97 p379). At the heart of the whole project is the scheme to build a four-track north-south cross-city line linking Papestraße on the southern Ring via Lehrter with the northern Ring. This 9 km link includes a 3·5 km tunnel between the Landwehrkanal and the River Spree. A new station for regional services is being built at Potsdamer Platz to give access to a new business area that includes DB's new headquarters, as well as to museums and the national library.

To the south a 16·9 km section of the former Anhalter Bahn carrying services to Halle and Leipzig is being reconstructed, as is the 14·2 km alignment of the Dresdner Bahn south of Papestraße. Where this route joins Berlin's outer ring near Blankenfelde, a new curve will be built for express services from Lehrter to the future Berlin-Brandenburg airport. n

INTRO: Berlin's Lehrter Bahnhof is a spectacular addition to the city's skyline. Murray Hughes visited the works

CAPTION: Above: Regional and long-distance trains first ran through the new station on June 21

CAPTION: As many as 780 high-performance solar cells are incorporated into the south-facing roof panels to generate 189 kW of power

CAPTION: Left: Visitors are offered an impression of the final appearance of the station when two glass-sided commercial buildings parallel to the north-south tracks will span the east-west Stadtbahn

CAPTION: Workers put the finishing touches to the 20000m2 roof at the end of June (above).

As the width of the curved roof varies from 59 to 68m, each of the 8 500 panels has different dimensions. Specially-designed robots will keep the glass clean

CAPTION: The Stadtbahn tracks are fitted with sound absorbing materials

CAPTION: The low-level north-south platforms for long-distance trains will not come into use until 2006