The tale of the Ausziehgleis and the Pförtnerampel

One of the most hotly discussed topics in Oberursel this month must surely be the re-development of an area called the “Bahnhofsareal”.  Roughly speaking, that is the area between the flyover at the “Drei Hasen” where the Homburger Landstraße meets the Nassauer Straße, and the other end of the Nassauer Straße where it almost – but not quite – joins up with the Weingärtenumgehung.  Not quite, unless you include the temporary road that was put in place for the Hessentag to give residents access to the area.

In the middle of this area is the newly restored station, hence the term “Bahnhofsareal” – the area around the station.

The future of that area is not just being discussed now, it has been a topic of discussion and in the town council for the past 25 years, as Councillor Dr. Eggert Winter of the SPD reminded councillors last week before launching into a blow-by-blow account of the various plans that had been on the cards in that time, including plans for a tunnel under the area and closing the level crossing at the end of the Adenauerallee, and a new station combining both S-Bahn and U-Bahn tracks.

“It is good in part when things take longer, because sometimes you notice that the things that you have decided upon are not good”, he said.

The refuge siding (right) and the U-Bahn running lines

The refuge siding (right) and the U-Bahn running lines

The council were being asked to approve provisional plans for the area that are to form the basis for the discussion, including a “Bürgerversammlung” (citizens’ meeting) on Tuesday, 23rd April 2013, at 7pm.

These plans, Dr. Winter told the council, offered a huge potential for the re-development of the area, and include a new road between the Nassauer Straße and the S-Bahn line called the “Ringstraße”, a roundabout at the end of the Zeppelinstraße, and – probably most controversially amongst the politicians – a set of traffic lights called a “Pförtnerampel” to connect the new road back up to the Nassauer Straße near the flyover.

A “Pförtnerampel” is a set of traffic lights that controls the flow of traffic into the road, rather than controlling which traffic it is, something known as “ramp metering” in English.

And whilst the people of Oberursel are being asked to make their views known in the Bürgerversammlung, some already have.  “Some citizens have suggested using the S-Bahn bridge for a road connection”, Dr. Winter continued.  “The administration said, if we start like that we will not be finished in the next 10 years, because it will cost more and we will have to negotiate with the railway”.  To which he commented: “we should forgo such suggestions”.

The other speakers often agreed with much of what he had said and what was already in the plans, with two exceptions.  One is the aforementioned Pförtnerampel.  The other is the so-called “Ausziehgleis”.

The “Ausziehgleis” refers to the refuge siding for the U-Bahn which leaves the running line when it turns into the Berliner Straße.  Previously part of the goods yard, the siding was used until recently for trains that only ran as far as the station in Oberursel and not to the Hohemark to leave the running line before returning to Frankfurt.

Although this is now less common, it still occurs, such as when there are delays and a train is taken out of service early, or when trains get shortened in the evening on workdays from 3 units down to 2, or special events take place like the Hessentag.

If the siding remains in place, then the road would have to cross it or the running line at some point.  Removing it would reduce the flexibility of the U-Bahn service in future.

Councillor Jens Uhlig of the CDU said that it had already been discussed, whether this siding was necessary.  But he also pleaded for options to be left open: “in order to think long-term, as other generations may have completely different solutions, and may even think about the tunnel again”.

Both he and Councillor Georg Braun of the OBG said that their parties felt that the traffic light solution was wrong, but the OBG also suggested leaving the main traffic on the Nassauer Straße and putting a cycle and pedestrian path parallel to the railway.  They are against closing the level crossing, unless the railway give them an incentive to do so.

Representing the Green party, Councillor Frank Böhme said that their priority was to optimise the public transport system, whilst at the same time keeping the noise levels in the area to a minimum.  At the end of the day, though, he did not want to rule out any part of the plans.  One interesting suggestion was to open up the railway bridge across the Homburger Landstraße to cyclists, depending on the cost.

The FDP emphasised how important the idea of a bus station is for them.

The debate was almost brought to a close by the Mayor, Hans-Georg Brum, who said that things now needed to start moving forward.  “We don’t want to start a brainstorming here”, he said.  He commented that one person had already submitted 5 suggestions for the area to him, all of which had been completely different.

Which begs the question, how much has already been decided and how much really is open to debate at the Bürgerversammlung.  Are all options really still on the table?  Can the general public still make suggestions?  Or will the politicians happily “forgo” this form of civic participation?

The 23rd April promises to be an interesting evening, but some of those interested or even affected by the plans have decided not to wait that long.  A group calling themselves the “Projektgruppe Bahnhof” have decided to work out some ideas in advance of that evening and are even going as far as drawing up their own plans for the area.  Their first meeting is on Tuesday, 26th March, 2013 at 8pm in “Zum Schwanen” in the old part of the town.  Further details and their discussion can be found in the Bahnhofsareal forum on the BrunnenTreff website.

The town councillors might well be advised to take note of what they come up with.




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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