Escalators with LED technology in Bonn New escalators in Bonn subway system can go up or down

Bad Godesberg · The new escalators at some subway stations in Bonn are equipped with a signal system, allowing them to change directions. This is how it works and where you will find the new escalator systems.

 Turning green or red at the Wurzerstrasse stop: The new escalators in Bonn are not only equipped with traffic lights, but also with LED strips on the sides that change color.

Turning green or red at the Wurzerstrasse stop: The new escalators in Bonn are not only equipped with traffic lights, but also with LED strips on the sides that change color.

Foto: Axel Vogel

On some new escalators, the traffic light colors green and red indicate whether the escalator is ready to go where you need it to go or if someone is coming from the opposite direction. SWB project manager Florian Montcenis demonstrates on a control column at the Wurzerstrasse stop that there could also be more light choices than just red or green. He could also switch the LED staircase lighting to pink or white, there are no limits to the possibilities. But the well-known traffic light colors of red and green have proven to work for the escalators. One of the first escalators with the new technology was installed at the Wurzerstrasse stop in 2021, with the other three following last year.

Escalators are an invention of industrialization, when the aim was not only to optimize production, but also to transport people. Escalators were particularly popular in subways and department stores right from the start. The technology has been constantly evolving for over 100 years.

Details are hidden from view

People can only see the upper part of the escalator with handrail and moving steps, and the red and green lights where they get on. The control system, which fills an entire electrical cabinet, is hidden from view. When it comes to the details, i.e. how does it work exactly, the SWB municipal utilities is not giving out any information. No one should be given instructions on how to disable an escalator.

One of the first conveyor belts ran at the end of the 19th century in the Coney Island amusement park in New York, a big attraction at the time. Today's escalators are not designed for playing and trying things out; they detect faults and stop. In an emergency, there is an emergency brake to stop them.

The red and green lights at escalators can only be experienced in a few places in Bonn so far. The escalators at Bonn Central Station, which date back to 1978, were replaced first, followed by those on Heussallee and Wurzerstrasse. The SWB project manager explains that this new escalator system with traffic lights is now mandatory so that the escalator can move in both directions. A total of twelve of the 74 escalators operated by SWB are already equipped with the new technology, with a further 14 to follow by 2025, including those at the Godesberg-Mitte and Stadthalle stops.

The new system parts arrive in the subway by train or crane

Every staircase is unique, each place where the new escalator system is to be installed is different. "When replacing escalators in the subway stations, the large parts have to be delivered either by crane or by special construction trains. In the latter case, the escalators are then moved into position by chain hoist. The various companies that receive the contracts have their own methods," says Montcenis. Last year, Stadtwerke invested 3.4 million euros in new escalators, with the special-purpose association go.Rheinland funding 60 percent of the expenditure as part of the "Municipal Rail" program.

The first ten-ton steel colossus was installed at Wurzerstrasse in July of 2021 with the help of a crane. The project manager gave this location priority because it was to get a new roof. The other three escalators followed in October and November of 2023, with a construction train transporting the individual parts weighing several tons during the night-time shutdown.

The modern escalators offer more comfort and safety because the steps start out more gently. They have sensitive radar technology, LED lighting throughout and go into creep and sleep mode when they are not in use. "This equipment and the highly efficient motor increase the possibility for use and reduce energy costs and CO₂ emissions," says Montcenis.

Germany's longest escalator is no longer in Essen

Unless they are spotted hanging from a crane, Bonn’s escalators are not particularly spectacular, in contrast to those in the London Underground. Until 2017, the longest escalator in Germany was the one in the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen. Since the opening of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, its 82-meter-long "Tube" has taken over the top spot. Incidentally, a European Union standard regulates how fast an escalator can be. According to EN 115, it must travel at least 1.8 kilometers per hour and can go a maximum speed of 2.7. If you're in a hurry, it’s better to take the stairs.

Orig. text: Bettina Köhl

Translation: ck