FOUR shovels were driven simultaneously into the earth at a construction site in the centre of Düsseldorf on November 28 when Mayor Joachim Erwin and Nordrhein-Westfalen Land State Secretary Günter Kozlowski, accompanied by two senior city transport officials, marked the start of work on the Wehrhahn U-Bahn line.

The 3·4 km route running from Bilk in the south to Wehrhahn in the northeast forms a strategic link through the centre of Düsseldorf, connecting at Heinrich-Heine Allee with the east-west U-Bahn route from Hauptbahnhof to Meerbusch and Krefeld. Interchange will be offered at each end to S-Bahn services.

The line will have four underground stations and two on the surface. When completed in 2014, the line will be used by three Stadtbahn routes (U71, U72, U73) which will replace five street-running tram services.

The project has a price tag of €650·5m, of which the city is funding €153m, the rest being provided by Germany's federal government and the Land.