A Really Useful Evening of Information about Local Trains

It was an evening that many users of public transport had been waiting for, even since the possibility of it taking place was announced last summer when discussion about the length of the U-Bahn trains during the holidays was in full swing.

The town’s administration had brought together representatives of both the train operating company, VGF, and the local transport association, VHT to explain something of the way the line is run and to answer travellers’ questions.

The town itself will by paying 1.4 million Euro this year towards the running costs, and is proud of the fact that all of the local stations have been modernised to make them wheelchair-accessible, but they also regret the loss of the 7½ minute service that used to run as far as the main station at peak times.

For the VGF, Michael Rüffer explained how the U-Bahn (“Stadtbahn”) system transports 117.5 million passengers each year, along 70km of track with 247 train units.  He also explained how the addition of the U8 and U9 lines at the end of 2010 created new problems for the system.  The U9 line crosses over the U3 line and runs on the same set of tracks for part of its journey, which often caused the U3 to be delayed, however the U3 now has priority in this situation.

Rainer Willig, Michael Rüffer, Christof Fink and Arne Behrens on the podium at the public transport information evening

Rainer Willig, Michael Rüffer, Christof Fink and Arne Behrens on the podium at the public transport information evening

But the U8 runs all the way to the same terminus at the Südbahnhof, meaning that the tunnel in Frankfurt runs at full capacity of 24 trains per hour for much of the day, leaving little room in the timetable to catch up if anything unforeseen happens.

And things do happens, as we were told.  Accidents happen when people cross over the line without looking along the tracks first, they hold the train up by trying to keep the doors open for other passengers, doors get stuck and of course sometimes trains simply break down.

This led to the first question of the evening: why the trains are painted dark green, and whether a brighter colour would mean less accidents?

For a start, we were told, the colour is not green.  It is called “Subaru Vista Blue”, a shade of blue that was selected because it does not exist in nature and should have exactly the effect of being something that people take notice of.  However there are some trains that, due to the advertising on them, are in brighter colours such red and yellow.  The accident statistics apparently show that this colour makes no difference, and that they are overseen just as often as the trains in the normal livery.

On the subject if ticket prices, it was commented that with the latest rises a “pain threshold” has been reached, and it was asked why it costs the same to travel from Niederursel to Hohemark as it does two stops from Oberursel Bahnhof to Altstadt (previously known as “Portstraße”).  This was not always the case, and there used to be a tarif called the “Kurzstrecke” for journey up to 2km within the town.  Arne Behrens from the VHT promised to look into this.

Other suggestions concerned the way the traffic lights work along the Hohemarkstraße and Berliner Straße, adding additional sets of points to allow more flexibility at the main station (although perhaps that should be “replacing” the points that were removed around 30 years ago), and how often the passengers is counted to allow for better planning.  The last count was in 2010.

Three topics came up repeatedly and these may mean changes in the coming months if the suggestions get taken up.

The time it takes to change between S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains was criticised, especially when the trains do not wait for each other.  We were told that the U-Bahn has to connect with buses at the Hohemark stop, and that it cannot always wait for the S-Bahn because of that.  However the place where the train stops when it only made up of two units, marked as “H2” on the tracks, could be moved forward to make the distance 25m shorter.  “Perhaps the raw plugs were  put in at the wrong place” commented Michael Rüffer, and promised to look into having that changed within a week.

Alderman Christof Fink asked if at the same time something could be done about the display board on the same platform, which is hidden from view by the roof of the shelter for passengers coming from the S-Bahn trying to see how long they have until the next train arrives.

Those display boards came in for criticism in general, because they can be unreliable.  They sometimes show that a train is coming, then it disappears from the board, only to turn up in the station a few minutes later.  In Frankfurt this can mean that other lines are on the board, even though a U3 train is in the tunnel.

Michael Rüffer explained that the boards used to use information from the computer that controls the movements on the line, but now uses infrared sensors that read codes on the trains as they pass.  As someone who travels to and from Oberursel on the line himself, he said that he wanted to find out why the problem occurred and is looking into it.

And finally, the topic of the 7½ minute service came up, as well as why the trains only run every 30 minutes in the evening and on Sundays, making it difficult for some people to get home in a reasonable time from Frankfurt and especially frustrating when a train gets cancelled meaning up to a one hour wait for the next one.

Citing the tunnel capacity, it was asked why additional trains to Oberursel did not start from the third platform in Heddernheim.  Those present indicated with their cheers and applause that they would be prepared to change trains there in order to get a better local service, surprising the VGF representatives who explained that they were expected to run trains for the entire length of the line whenever possible.

Hopefully they will act on this new information and maybe at some point Oberursel will see a better evening and weekend service on the line.  If they get the “H2” position moved in the next week as well, then this feedback alone from passengers should show how useful it can be to hold such information evenings.

Around 50 people attended.


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 AllThingsGerman.net 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.

Speak Your Mind


Please click on ACCEPT to give us permission to set cookies [more information]

This website uses cookies to give you the best browsing experience possible. Cookies are small text files that are stored by the web browser on your computer. Most of the cookies that we use are so-called “Session cookies”. These are automatically deleted after your visit. The cookies do not damage your computer system or contain viruses. Please read our privacy information page for more details or to revoke permission.