Photos: DB AG/Volker Emersleben

Arriving trains must coast into the terminal as no catenary is provided under the overhead portal cranes.

GERMANY: Up to 13 intermodal trains a day for destinations across Europe are now being formed and dispatched from the automated MegaHub terminal at Lehrte, following a formal inauguration attended by Parliamentary State Secretary Enak Ferlemann and DB Board Member for Infrastructure Ronald Pofalla.

The 120 000 m2 complex has been built on part of the Lehrter marshalling yard, about 20 km east of Hannover. It has been developed at a cost of €171m, with the funding shared between Deutsche Bahn and the federal government. The official opening followed a year of trials that included some commercial services.


The concept of an automated interchange for intermodal consignments was floated as early as 1993, and agreement on the funding was reached in 2011. However, delays in securing planning permission and related issues meant that construction did not start until May 2018. The first customer was Osnabrück-based Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, which previously used the intermodal terminal at Hannover-Linden.


Automated shuttles are used to transport containers between the three cranes.

Intermodal interchange

The Lehrte Mega-Hub has two groups of three 720 m long tracks spanned by three large portal cranes. Containers and swap bodies are sorted automatically and moved between trains or to and from lorries using the portal cranes and 12 autonomous electric transporters. The terminal has been designed to allow for future expansion using another three cranes and eight more transporters.

Details of the loads are recorded by video as the trains or lorries enter the terminal, and all loading and unloading moves are controlled by a central computer. Loading is completed ‘at record speed’, with the process taking ‘just a few minutes’, according to DB. A train can generally be fully loaded within a 3 h window.


At the opening event on June 23, Pofalla affirmed that ‘shifting freight to the green rail system is one of the simplest and most effective measures for protecting the climate. Transhipment processes at Lehrte are faster than anywhere else in Germany. With every train that departs from here, we remove 52 lorries from our roads and thereby automatically cut CO2 emissions.’ Ferlemann added that the project would be a template for ‘many more facilities’ in Germany.

The new MegaHub is one of the most innovative projects in freight transport today’, suggested Niedersachsen Transport Minister Dr Bernd Althusmann. ‘It underscores the exceptional role that Niedersachsen plays at the logistics crossroads of Europe. The hub will strengthen the competitiveness of climate-friendly rail transport and further increase Niedersachsen’s appeal for the logistics sector.’