THE TIMETABLE change on December 14 will see the launch of Germany’s latest S-Bahn network. Following a €260m infrastructure upgrading programme, S-Bahn Rhein-Neckar will take over four routes radiating from Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg with a total length of 240 km.

Major works in the project include the construction of an additional bridge over the Rhine to permit four-tracking between Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, reconstruction of 53 out of 65 stations to be served, and electrification of the line from Schifferstadt to Speyer.

The network will comprise four routes, which will initially operate at hourly intervals. S1 will run west-east from Kaiserslauten to Eberbach and Osterburken. S2 will also run from Kaiserslauten to Eberbach, and will be extended to Moosbach in alternate hours. Routes S3 and S4 will run from Speyer to Bruchsal, sharing the core route between Schifferstadt and Heidelberg; S3 will run beyond Bruchsal to Karlsruhe. With the completion of further electrification work in 2006, routes S3 and S4 are due to be extended from Speyer to Germersheim.

Services will be operated by DB Regio under a 12-year contract awarded in 2001 by the local authorities in Rhein-Neckar, Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz. DB has invested €190m in a fleet of 40 low-floor EMUs designated ET425.2, which will run around 6 million train-km each year. Test running with the new trainsets began on the night of September 15-16, building up towards a complete ghost service at the beginning of December.