Berlin Hauptbahnhof Rail Station


The Berlin Hauptbahnhof rail station was constructed after the fall of the Berlin Wall as a central rail and transportation hub for the newly reunited city. Construction took 11 years. The station opened in 2006 and is located on the site of the historic Lehrter Bahnhof. By constructing a new north-south rail line, Berlin Hauptbahnhof supplements the east-west S-Bahn (above ground rapid transit rail).

Berlin Hauptbahnhof rail station. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof rail station. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof replaces Lehrter Bahnhof

Lehrter Bahnhof (Lehrte Station) was Berlin Hauptbahnhof’s predecessor. Opening in 1871, it linked Berlin with the town of Lehrte near Hanover. Eventually, Lehrter Bahnhof became Germany’s most important east-west main rail line. The station was heavily damaged during the Second World War. Services resumed for a short time but were suspended again in 1951. Between 1957 and 1959, the East German government bulldozed Lehrter Bahnhof.

The State-of-the-Art Berlin Hauptbahnhof

The modern and transparent structure of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof station is made of glass and steel. A glass roof spans the main station hall. A photovoltaic system (a power system which converts sunlight into electricity) is integrated into the surface of the glass and can provide up to 2% of the station’s electricity needs. To bring in as much light as possible, glass is used throughout the station.

Inside Berlin Hauptbahnhof rail station. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016.

Inside Berlin Hauptbahnhof rail station. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016.

The Berlin Hauptbahnhof station has tracks on two levels, running perpendicular to one another. The upper level of Berlin Hauptbahnhof has six passenger tracks. Two are used by the S-Bahn; the other four serve trains destined to east and west locations. The lower level has eight tracks for trains travelling to north and south locations, including tracks for the U-Bahn (underground rapid transit rail) and the Airport Express. The station entrance is on the middle level for easy street access for rail users arriving by tram, bus, bike or and automobile.

Construction of Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Construction of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof station began with the building of tunnel tubes that would take the trains beneath the Spree River: Four tubes for long distance and regional rail transportation, two tubes for the U-Bahn and one road tunnel. Four of the tubes were created with tunnel boring machines (Schildvortriebsmaschinen). Pre-fabricated tubes were also used.

Tunnel tubes under construction. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1998.

Tunnel tubes under construction. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 1998.

To allow for continued sub-surface work, the Spree River had to be temporarily re-channeled.

Construction Difficulties Encountered

Since the tunnels are only 3 1/3 feet below the Spree River, tunneling proved extremely problematic due to the combination of the sandy soil and Berlin’s high water table. Tunneling under and building over the Spree River so close to the still-operating S-Bahn and adjacent landmarks, such as the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, created additional hurdles to overcome. Unexploded World War II munitions caused construction delays, and finally, the steel and glass construction of the building itself challenged the engineers. It became even more interesting when they were asked to shorten the glass roofs by approximately 423 feet to reduce costs and speed up construction. Now, that this difficult project is completed, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof is well worth a visit.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply