German Unity Transport Project 8

 Nuremberg – Erfurt – Halle/Leipzig – Berlin


The main construction work to transform Erfurt central station into a modern, passenger-friendly station for ICE high-speed trains began on February 17th, 2003. With an average of 35,000 passengers a day, Erfurt station is the most important hub for both local and long-distance transport in the Free State of Thuringia. There are about 500 train movements a day. A modern transport hub is being developed here for local and long-distance rail traffic, local transport (trams and buses) and private means of transport. 

The aim is to build a rail junction for the lines coming from the directions of Frankfurt am Main, Munich/Nuremberg and the Ruhr and the lines going to Weimar, Jena, Gera and Chemnitz, Leipzig/Halle (Saale) and Berlin and Dresden. In addition, there are a variety of regional connections.

The modernisation of the track, signalling and safety facilities and installations at the Erfurt rail junction, including the integration of the new line from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig/Halle (Saale), is being completed in sections. A new platform and the service centre were built in the first stage of construction and have been in operation since the end of 2005. The German government, the Free State of Thuringia, the City of Erfurt, which is the state capital, and Deutsche Bahn are investing a total of 260 million euros in the transformation of Erfurt central station.

An ICE station for high-speed trains is much more than just a new station building - it includes new platforms, an underground car park and aservice centre

Erfurt central station Erfurt central station
Erfurt central station (Photo: DB AG)

A station would not be a station without platforms, tracks, sets of points and signals. The construction work thus affects the whole Erfurt rail junction, which extends for several kilometres within the city. The platform and track facilities and installations will allow train traffic to flow more smoothly through the Erfurt junction in future. The first step was to create additional platform capacity by building a new temporary platform (platform 7a) and converting the former mail train platforms on the west side for passenger train traffic. This was the only way to ensure local and long-distance traffic could continue without restrictions from the beginning of 2003 until the end of 2005 despite the fact that platforms and tracks in the northern part of the construction site were no longer available.

From the evening of June 1st to the afternoon of June 3rd, Erfurt central station was completely closed to train traffic for a 44-hour period to complete the central part of the station and conclude the second major stage of construction. The new platforms 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 went into operation. Platforms 4, 5, 6 and 7 are bay platforms, while the track at platform 3 is another through track. The new station's layout is now considerably clearer and more customer-friendly for passengers. The more flexible operational management allows train traffic to run more smoothly - to the benefit of the customer.

"With platforms 1/2 coming into operation at the end of 2005, as well as the retail outlets and service facilities and the new platforms 3 to 7, passengers and visitors will have a fully functioning, barrier-free station at their disposal from the beginning of June. By the end of next year, the steel and glass station concourse roof will have been completed, the bridges in the south over Bahnhofstraße will have been replaced, and platforms 8 and 9/10 will have been built," explains Gerold Brehm, Deutsche Bahn management representative for the Free State of Thuringia. All of the platforms will be easily accessible in future using escalators and lifts. A signage system and modern displays show passengers the way to the trains, the local transport stops, the bus station, the taxi stand and the many service facilities in the station.

The station had to be closed to train traffic for 44 hours both to connect the existing track and overhead line facilities and installations to the new ones and to completely renew the signalling and safety systems. To this end, new software was started up in the electronic signal box. To minimise interference with train traffic as far as possible, this work is carried out around the clock in an intense period of construction on the first weekend in June. This was concluded with detailed testing of all functions. During this time, no trains could pass through the station. Since September last year, the new platforms and the associated track, overhead line and safety facilities and installations have been constructed in the central construction area. The new platform area extends from platform 3 on the north side to platform 8 on the south side. Platforms 4 and 5 are at the station's eastern exit, and platforms 6 and 7 are at the western exit. This is an island platform area.

Also on the first weekend in June, the previous platforms 5/5a, 6/7 and 7a were taken out of service, and the focus of construction work shifted to the third stage of construction in the southern part of the station by the Flutgraben flood channel. 7 kilometres of new tracks from the central station to Bischleben have been in use since September 3rd, 2006. Parallel to these, two further tracks were constructed for the new line to Nuremberg. Following the closure and demolition of the bay platforms 2a, 3, and 4 in the central section of the station in July/August last year, platforms 8 and 9 were also taken out of service in September. The platforms were closed for a 12-hour period to allow the electronic signal box to be adapted to reflect the new status.

The retail and catering outlets and service facilities have been open to passengers and visitors since November 19th, 2005. There are 3,000 square metres of outlets and facilities, including a pharmacy, station book shop, flower shop, Deutsche Bahn travel centre, drugstore, grocery, hairdresser, gift and home accessories shop, cash dispenser, mobile phone shop, bank (Reisebank), shoe shop, tobacconist, lottery ticket outlet and the DB Service centre. There are a variety of catering outlets for appetites large and small: a snack bar serving Asian food, bakery, pretzel and croissant shop, crêperie, fast food and fish snack bars, butcher's shop with a hot food counter, sweet shop, coffee bar and juice bar. Fruit and vegetables are also available. Ticket machines, luggage lockers, a service point, waiting areas and toilets complete the picture.

Rail operations were suspended for a 15-hour period in the night from November 26th to 27th, 2005 to allow new track and overhead line installations, which extend for over two kilometres on the north side, to be connected to the line network. The state-of-the-art signalling and safety systems were connected to the electronic signal box. At the same time, the new platforms 1/2, which are 420 metres long, went into service on the north side of the station with a lift, escalators, new destination display systems, a public address system, wind and weather protection, benches, drinks and snack machines and luggage trolley points. This first completed stage of construction of the new station officially went into operation for the timetable change on December 11th, 2005. The steel and glass platform hall covering the new tracks which is 154 metres long and 20 metres high, is half completed at this point. There are separate roofs over the platforms beyond its eastern and western ends. The lift goes not only to the service centre under the platforms but also a further level down to an underground car park, which has over 100 spaces.

Ground-breaking, foundation-stone laying and topping-out

The ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of the transformation of Erfurt central station into a modern, passenger-friendly station took place on September 22nd, 2001. The new station is an impressive, harmonious combination of the historical station passenger building at the front and the architecturally ambitious modern platform hall. It will be very much the centre of the redesigned area around the station.

The fine station passenger building at the front, built in 1893, was thoroughly renovated in consultation with the authority responsible for protecting buildings of historical interest. Around 80 percent of the red sandstone cornices and around a fifth of the yellow bricks on the external and internal facades had to be replaced. The builders looked at eight different sample stones in order to find an exact colour match for the defective stones to be replaced. The red sandstone originally came from Silesia, and an adequate replacement was eventually found in the Main area after numerous comparisons were carried out.

The intact parts of the facade were cleaned using compressed air and lye, and the joints were cleaned mechanically by hand. The outside of the building was then hydrophobised. This chemical process minimises the water absorption capacity of the bricks and gives them a lasting fresh appearance. Up to seven coats of paint had to be removed from the interior of the building.

During this phase of construction, between the passenger building and the former express freight centre, the access tunnel from the city's underground car park to the future underground car park under the service centre was excavated and extended, and a ceiling was constructed. The interior of the express freight building, which is next to the InterCity Hotel, was also completely redesigned. The "technical heart" of the station was also built here with rooms for the heating equipment and transformers.

The old floor in the station passenger building at the front had to be replaced, and new cables and supply lines were laid underneath it. Not only were the metal panels removed from the barrel vault of the old station concourse, and the bitumen layer removed from the exterior; it was also completely rebuilt. A new roof structure was constructed and clad with zinc plate that was a good match for the red sandstone and the bricks. The previously coffered ceiling of the booking hall was replaced by large new gable windows. The modern DB Reisezentrum (travel centre), which is bathed in light, and the station bookshop opened here on October 2nd, 2002 and July 4th, 2003, respectively. The construction work on the north side of the station continued from February 2003 until the end of 2005. In order to create the space required to go ahead with the reconfiguration of the track and platform facilities and installations, the construction of the railway bridges over Bahnhofstraße and the construction of the new station concourse roof structure, all tracks had to be closed here. This construction area extended for around two kilometres from Schillerstraße to the bridge in the east over the Flutgraben flood channel. The tracks had to be laid, the points installed, the new island platforms 1/2 (between the tracks) constructed and the bridges over Bahnhofstraße, Löberstraße and Puschkinstraße demolished and rebuilt.

Retaining walls reinforce the railway embankment for over a kilometre within the city. These civil engineering structures, some of which were built in the 19th century, were either renovated or completely renewed. Particular importance was attached to their appearance, and they were landscaped and planted based on a design concept agreed with the city council.

The entire substructure of the tracks had to be stabilised to a depth of two metres. A good hundred years ago, the city walls were taken down here and the tracks were laid on an embankment. The materials used at the time were sensitive to water and frost, which reduces stability. This situation was fundamentally and lastingly improved during the construction work.

Demolition of the central passenger building began on April 1st, 2003 to create space for the underground car park, the extended shopping area and service centre and the new station concourse roof structure. The foundation stone for the construction of the new station where the old tracks were was laid in a ceremony on June 23rd, 2003. Important contemporary documents were buried in a stainless-steel container. By that time, around 265,000 tonnes of earth material, tracks, ballast and walls – half of the rail installations – had been taken away. The topping-out crown was raised under the roof of the new station concourse structure on March 11th, 2005.

The completed overlapping, two-part roof structure, 154 metres long and 90 metres wide, will cover the entire track area and platforms. The smaller part of the roof on the Willy-Brandt-Platz side takes its lead from the height of the surrounding buildings. Its glazed facade provides a view of the station forecourt. At over 10,000 square metres, this roof structure is one of the largest new platform halls built in Germany in the last 100 years.

The railway bridges over Bahnhofstraße on the north side have already been replaced. Continuing from the bridges over Bahnhofstraße, the tracks above the service centre are also located on a kind of bridge. On May 10th, 2005 the required load testing of the new tracks laid up to that point was carried out with heavy freight trains in order to test the stability of the bridge structures. In the course of further construction work, the bridges on the south side will also be replaced. The bus and tram stops will be laid out under the bridges on completion of the bridge construction work so that passengers can get to them directly from the station building or via the stairways at the western end of the platforms.

By the late summer of 2005, progress on the service centre under the tracks was advanced enough to allow the shops to be fitted by their future tenants. The first shops opened in October. The sophisticated fire-protection systems in the service centre were tested in the night from 15th to 16th November, 2005. Specialists commissioned by the German Federal Railway Authority and the project managers used two smoke machines to test whether the fire alarms were triggered and the vent flaps and ventilators functioned as planned, so that in the event of an emergency the station can be evacuated safely. This is a state-of-the-art automatic system offering the highest possible level of safety.

Historic details preserved for posterity

Deutsche Bahn, the city council, the Free State of Thuringia and the authority responsible for the protection of buildings of historical interest did not take the decision to demolish the central passenger building lightly. The decision was taken in the mid-1990s at the time of the architecture competition for a new station at the existing location. The critical factor in the decision was that the new station should be built at the same, favourable city-centre location and thus be able to meet both the current and future demands that are made of modern passenger transport. The alternative – building a new station on a green-field site on the edge of the city – was rejected as unacceptable by all those involved.

This typical central station building is preserved for posterity virtually by means of photogrammetric documentation. Based on around 100 colour photographs, the building can be generated virtually using a CAD (computer-aided design) system.

Extensive material relating to the central station building was presented to the City of Erfurt in March 2003. This included a historical record of all the construction work on the island building, including the archived, chronologically arranged construction plans and as-built plans and documentation relating to the signal box on platform 5 and to a cast-iron water crane between the tracks on the site where platform 1 used to be. A relief of a woman's head in red sandstone was salvaged from the west-facing elevation of the island building and installed in a niche in the DB Reisezentrum (Deutsche Bahn travel centre). The upper capstone of the vaulted roof on the south side of the island building was used as a capstone on the glazed side of the barrel vault roof of the station passenger building at the front. 

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