Shorter U-Bahn trains for the school holidays

A double-unit U3 train crossing the road in Bommersheim

A double-unit U3 train crossing the road in Bommersheim

I’m not the only person in Oberursel who has noticed something missing recently when travelling by train (U-Bahn) to Frankfurt.

A whole train unit.

Regular readers to the original blog may remember that the stations in Oberursel were upgraded before the Hessentag to take longer trains, making the platforms 75 metres long instead of 50 metres, or in train terms three units coupled together on normal workdays instead of two, each unit being made up of two carriages.

For the past two weeks however, the trains having been running with just two units on these days as well, not just at the weekend, so I asked the local train company why this was.

My suspicions were confirmed: it is all to do with the school holidays.

I received a more detailed response from the town hall in Oberursel.  The missing unit was agreed on to save running costs during the holidays, and the new length will be tested once the schools go back until the end of August as well.

After that a decision will be taken on whether to re-instate the third unit or not.  However I was assured that the trains will definitely be full length again during the winter months.

It would be interesting to see some figures on this.  I find it hard to believe that the school holidays make such a big difference, except, of course, to the few trains that the school children use to get to and from school.

Maybe more people are on holiday during this time, but many of them take their children on days out – by train.

And from my experience this week, the closer you get to Frankfurt, the fuller the trains get, because once the lines merge in Heddernheim many commuters just get in the next train, regardless of whether it has 2, 3 or 4 units.  Obviously the 2-unit trains fill up faster.

Returning to Oberursel from the Hohemark there is a similar situation.  If you want to go to Oberursel, you generally wait for the next U3 train to come along.  But for commuters in Frankfurt any of the trains on the line will do.  Except that the U3 has less space in it.

The third unit was originally explained as being a way to compensate for the capacity in the system that was lost when the trains that used to run between Frankfurt and Oberursel’s main station in-between the other trains (the so-called 7½-minute tact) were dropped to make room for the new U8 line to Riedberg.

Even the longer trains get full on schooldays at particular times in the morning and early afternoon.  Without them, I fear that many people will stop using the train at those times and the commuter statistics will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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