GERMANY: Hamburg’s Mayor Peter Tschentscher has formally launched the construction of driverless metro Line U5 with a groundbreaking ceremony exactly a year to the day after the granting of planning approval for the first phase.

Described by the city government as Germany’s largest inner-city transport project, Line U5 will serve 180 000 inhabitants and is expected to carry around 270 000 passengers/day when the whole line has been completed.


The first section of U5 will run for 5·8 km from Bramfeld in the east to City Nord via Steilshoop, serving four new stations and an interchange with U1 at Sengelmannstraße. Subsequent stages would extend the line south through Winterhude and Uhlenhorst to the city centre, and then north past the university and the Eppendorf medical complex to Lokstedt and the stadium district northwest of Altona. This would take the total length to 24 km with 23 stops, including seven interchanges with existing U- and S-Bahn lines.

Development of the new line is being managed by the U5 Projekt GmbH subsidiary of municipal operator Hamburger Hochbahn.

Preparatory work for the first section has been underway since late 2021, including utilities diversion. The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the construction shaft from which a tunnel boring machine will excavate the 4 km section towards Bramfeld. The remaining 1·8 km to City Nord will be built using cut-and-cover methods. Construction of the new stations is expected to start in 2024.

A workshop and underground stabling facility for the U5 trains is to be developed next to the existing Alsterdorf bus depot.

Hamburg U5 impression

Trial operation of the fully automated trains is expected to start in 2027 on the short section of U5 between City Nord and Sengelmannstraße. This offers a mix of surface and underground running, including gradients and station stops, allowing all of the different systems to be tested and approved ahead of a phased opening for passenger service.

Total cost of the Bramfeld – City Nord section is put at €1·8bn, with the cost of the other sections still being determined. HHA and U5 Projekt GmbH expect to submit an application for federal funding to the Ministry of Digital & Transport at the beginning of 2023, noting that amendments to the Municipal Transport Financing Act provide for federal contributions of up to 75% of the eligible costs.

According to U5 Projekt GmbH, design work is already underway for the next section from City Nord to Jarrestraße, while the rest of the route is in the planning phase. The company hopes that construction can start on several sections from the mid-2020s, with the entire line to be completed by the end of the 2030s.

‘U5 is a central project of the Senate to improve mobility in Hamburg and to advance climate protection’, said Tschentscher at the ceremony on October 4. ‘For the first time, entire districts will have a direct connection to the mass transit network, enabling citizens to travel quickly, comfortably and in a climate-friendly manner. The U5 will be the most modern urban railway in Germany. It will be fully automated and — like all U- and S-Bahn trains in Hamburg — run on 100% green electricity.’