Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn

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Map of the complete Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn systems network.

The Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn (German: Rhein-Ruhr Stadtbahn) is an umbrella system of all of the Stadtbahn (light rail) lines included in the integrated public transport network of Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) which covers the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area in western Germany. It does not include the independent Cologne Stadtbahn and Bonn Stadtbahn systems.


At the beginning of the 1960s, road traffic in the Rhine-Ruhr area increased like in other German metropolitan areas. Existing trams were regarded as obstacles for car-oriented cities. Therefore, these trams should be relocated to underground sections below city centers (as Stadtbahn lines) if they were not replaced by bus lines.

The cities of Bochum, Castrop-Rauxel, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Oberhausen, Recklinghausen and Wattenscheid founded the Stadtbahngesellschaft Ruhr in 1969 for coordinating the plans to transform tram routes into Stadtbahn routes. Düsseldorf and Hattingen joined in 1972; since then, the cooperation has been called Stadtbahngesellschaft Rhein-Ruhr. Witten joined in 1981, Recklinghausen left in 1982.

Original Stadtbahn plans proposed upgrading up to 300 kilometers of tram lines step by step. Most of these proposed lines were planned in north-south direction and would have branched off of a main line that would have run more or less east-west. Due to financial constraints and the downturn of the economy in the region, many sections or the originally planned system have not been built. As a result, there are isolated standard gauge Stadtbahn lines inside of metre gauge tram systems – one example would be the U35 line in Bochum.

Component systems[edit]

There are five Stadtbahn systems that make up the Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn (their operating companies are shown in parentheses):


As of 2016, there are 23 lines altogether in the Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn:

Line System Cities on Route Stations (underground) Date Opened
U11 Essen Stadtbahn Essen, Gelsenkirchen 23 (14) 1 June 1986
U17 Essen Stadtbahn Essen 17 (12) 27 November 1981
U18 Essen Stadtbahn Essen, Mülheim 17 (10) 28 May 1977
U35 Bochum Stadtbahn Bochum, Herne 21 (15) 2 September 1989
U41 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 28 (12) 2 June 1984
U42 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 28 (7) 26 September 1992
U43 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 34 (5) 27 April 2008
U44 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 19 (4) 27 April 2008
U45 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 8 (7) 27 May 1983
U46 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 7 (7) 2 June 1996
U47 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 27 (8) 27 May 1983
U49 Dortmund Stadtbahn Dortmund 11 (8) 2 June 1984
U70 Düsseldorf Stadtbahn Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Meerbusch 17 (5) 6 August 1988
U71 Düsseldorf 42 (6) 21 February 2016
U72 Düsseldorf, Ratingen 31 (6) 21 February 2016
U73 Düsseldorf 23 (6) 21 February 2016
U74 Düsseldorf Stadtbahn Düsseldorf, Meerbusch 31 (8) May 1994
U75 Düsseldorf Stadtbahn Düsseldorf, Neuss 28 (7) May 1994
U76 Düsseldorf Stadtbahn Düsseldorf, Krefeld, Meerbusch 28 (6) 6 August 1988
U77 Düsseldorf Stadtbahn Düsseldorf 22 (8) May 1994
U78 Düsseldorf Stadtbahn Düsseldorf 15 (8) 6 August 1988
U79 Duisburg, Düsseldorf 45 (21) 6 August 1988
U83 Düsseldorf 35 (6) 21 February 2016


All plans included the following standards:

  • intersection-free alignment, in city centres preferred to be underground, in the outskirts also above surface
  • high-level platforms for easy access (in contrast to former low-floor platforms or even access from street level)
  • European standard gauge (1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in))

Cross-platform interchanges were planned wherever useful and possible. All Stadtbahn lines have been electrified with overhead catenary and are powered with direct current like former trams.

However, most of Rhine-Ruhr tram lines still use metre gauge (1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)). Combined Stadtbahn and tram tracks use three-rail tracks (Essen) or even four-rail tracks (Krefeld). Some sections in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Bochum und Essen were constructed with metre gauge and temporary integrated into the network, being able to be converted easily to standard gauge at a later point of time.

Since the start of Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn, existing tram routes were integrated and partly developed as pilot routes. Among others, the former tram lines 8/18 Essen–Mülheim were chosen to become the most important pilot route with tracks in between the Ruhrschnellweg express highway lanes; the new pilot Stadtbahn line U18 was opened in 1977.

Most of today's Stadtbahn lines were developed out of former tram lines. Their line numbers were simply converted into two-digit numbers prepended by U for distinguishing between both standards; the U refers to both unabhängig (engl.: independent) and U-Bahn (metro) standards being the later target, although complete U-Bahn (metro) lines have in fact never existed in the Rhine-Ruhr area. By 2011, the only full independent lines in the Rhine-Ruhr area are the Dortmund H-Bahn, Düsseldorf SkyTrain and Wuppertal Schwebebahn (also referred as line 60 in the Stadtbahn numbering scheme) hanging and suspended monorails.


The very ambitious original plans have not paid enough attention to financial restrictions and increased tunneling costs in the mining areas. So, the schedule for opening the planned sections has been severely delayed with some routes even cancelled. The next step to transform Stadtbahn routes to metro standards is not anymore foreseen.

To use of constructed sections, existing tram lines have been operated further on the new alignments including temporary use of tram gauges and low-floor platforms. Some stations even contain both low-floor and high-floor platforms in case of mixed tram and Stadtbahn operation.

Rolling stock[edit]

For the Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn, new standardised Stadtbahn trains named Stadtbahnwagen B were developed. However, Stadtbahn companies ordered them with different lengths, layout of doors etc..

Tram lines still use former rolling stock and new low-floor trams where Stadtbahn projects were stopped or severely delayed.

The B-Wagen are undergoing retirement. In Bochum the B80D-wagen are currently being replaced by the new high-floor Variotram on the U35.

Routes of Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn[edit]

Opening date Stadtbahn section Notes
05 Oct 1967 Essen Saalbau sub-surface tram station, changed in 1984 (metre gauge)
03 Nov 1972 Bochum Klinikum – Hustadt as tram until 1994, not in tunnel (metre gauge)
1974 Duisburg Neuer Friedhof – Düsseldorf Wittlaer pilot route, includes elevated and underground sections, as tram until 1981
1976 Dortmund Kirchderne – Grevel elevated, as tram lines 402/406 until 1992, today called U42
28 May 1977 Mülheim Heißen Kirche – Essen Wiener Platz pilot route, first line with full Stadtbahn standards in the Rhine-Ruhr area
28 May 1977 Essen Saalbau – Porscheplatz sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
25 May 1979 Bochum Schauspielhaus – Hauptbahnhof sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
03 Nov 1979 Mülheim Heißen Kirche – Mülheim Hauptbahnhof partly not in tunnel
03 Oct 1981 Düsseldorf Rampe Kennedydamm – Rampe Opernhaus (Heinr.-Heine-Allee) sub-surface tram operation until 1988, two stops
27 Nov 1981 Essen Bismarckstraße – Rampe Planckstraße further to Margarethenhöhe
27 Nov 1981 Essen Wiener Platz – Universität/Gesamthochschule
28 Nov 1981 Bochum Rampe Ruhrstadion – Bochum Hauptbahnhof sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
27 May 1983 Dortmund Clarenberg – Hörde Bf as sub-surface tram lines 401/406 until 1984
02 Jun 1984 Dortmund Westfalenpark bzw. Rampe Märkische Str. – Lortzing- bzw. Schützenstraße
01 Sep 1984 Gelsenkirchen Hauptbahnhof – Musiktheater sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
27 May 1985 Mülheim Hauptbahnhof – Aktienstraße sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
27 Sep 1985 Essen Porscheplatz – Viehofer Platz sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
31 May 1986 Essen Saalbau – Messe/Gruga bzw. Rampe Florastraße further to Bredeney, mixed operation metre gauge tram / standard gauge Stadtbahn
24 Aug 1986 Dortmund Märkische Straße – Willem-van-Vloten-Straße including Kohlgartenstraße ramp
7 May 1988 Düsseldorf Heinrich-Heine-Allee – Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof four-track tunnel, four stops, demolition of Opernhaus ramp
06 Aug 1988 Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof – Rampe Stahlwerkstraße further to Oberbilk/Philipshalle (S) and Holthausen
06 Aug 1988 Düsseldorf Heinrich-Heine-Allee – Rampe Tonhalle further to Oberkassel, Krefeld and Neuss
02 Sep 1989 Herne Schloss Strünkede – Bochum Hauptbahnhof
27 May 1990 Dortmund Westfalenstadion
09 Nov 1991 Essen Porscheplatz – Berliner Platz mixed sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge) and guided bus operation
11 Jul 1992 Duisburg Rampe Platanenhof bzw. Rathaus – Duissern (Rampe Rübenstraße) four-track tunnel, partly sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
26 Sep 1992 Dortmund Stadtgarten – Brunnenstraße
26 Sep 1993 Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof – Ronsdorfer Straße further to Eller/Vennhauser Allee, two stops
27 Nov 1993 Bochum Hauptbahnhof – Waldring further to Hustadt on gauge-converted tram route
28 May 1994 Gelsenkirchen Musiktheater – Ruhrzoo sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
1 May 1995 Dortmund Stadtgarten – Städtische Kliniken
02 Jun 1996 Dortmund Stadtgarten – Polizeipräsidium
24 May 1998 Dortmund Polizeipräsidium – Westfalenhallen
24 May 1998 Essen Universität/Gesamthochschule – Altenessen Bf
19 Sep 1998 Mülheim Schloss Broich – Hauptbahnhof sub-surface tram operation (metre and standard gauge)
23 Sep 2000 Duisburg Duissern – Meiderich Bf partly sub-surface tram operation (standard gauge), demolition of Rübenstraße ramp
30 Sep 2001 Essen Altenessen Bf – Rampe II. Schichtstraße further to Gelsenkirchen-Horst
15 Jun 2002 Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof – Oberbilk/Philipshalle (S) further to Holthausen, three stops, demolition of Stahlwerkstraße ramp
16 Jun 2002 Dortmund Städtische Kliniken – Kreuzstraße
20 Mar 2005 Dortmund Barop Parkhaus road underpass and relocation of station
27 Jan 2006 Bochum Bochumer Verein – Lohring, Rathaus – Hauptbahnhof sub-surface tram operation (metre gauge)
27 Apr 2008 Dortmund Unionstraße – Ostentor bzw. Rampe Weißenburger Straße low-floor Stadtbahn
24 Sep 2009 Düsseldorf Holthausen – Benrath, Betriebshof high-floor Stadtbahn
30 Aug 2010 Düsseldorf Werstener Dortstraße – Werstener Dorfstraße – Südpark – Universität Ost/Botanischer Garten high-floor Stadtbahn

See also[edit]

External links[edit]