Cologne In the south of Cologne, work is beginning on the above-ground extension of the north-south urban railway. Many commuters, especially from the Bonn area, have to expect traffic jams and diversions - for years to come.
More barriers are not possible. The jumble of red and white plastic walls leaves many motorists, cyclists and pedestrians at the Bonner Straße/Schönhauser Straße junction perplexed. Where can you turn, which lane leads in which direction? Traffic jams, honking, shaking heads. If you can, you should avoid the junction for the next few months, or even years.
But that alone will not help many road users. Because the third construction phase of the north-south urban railway will be built from this intersection in the next few years, an above-ground railway line that will lead to the so-called Bonner Verteiler, i.e. the connection to the A555. And that means that Bonner Straße will be partly closed for a long time, partly reduced to one lane each way. The city recommends extensive diversions either via Brühler Straße or via the banks of the Rhine.
Heavy lorry traffic due to wholesale market
At the moment, the chaotic impression of the intersection is exacerbated by construction work on the car park of a large supermarket. When these are over, a large junction will be created at this point. A place that has been heavily congested for a long time. One reason for this is the lorry traffic to and from the nearby wholesale market, another is the fact that Bonner Straße is the central access road from the south to Südstadt and beyond to the centre of Cologne.
Well over 300,000 people commute to Cologne every day for work (in 2020, the figure was around 335,000). Of these, more than 10,000 come from the city of Bonn alone. In 2019, i.e. before the pandemic, lockdown and home office trend, 8,594 motor vehicles travelled the Bonner Straße every day, according to the city. In 2021, there were still 6,679. So if this gateway is now largely eliminated for years, problems are foreseeable.
Information office along the route
Although the city of Cologne promises that "possible disruptions will be kept to a minimum", it has set up an office directly on Bonner Strasse to be on the safe side, where citizens can obtain information about planning and construction progress. And the plans look like this:
Until about the end of April, Bonner Straße will be open to traffic in both directions, after which it will be partially closed for about two and a half years due to the need to set up traffic on the construction site. In the last year of the construction work, the road should be completely usable in both directions again.
The diversion concept provides for one lane in each direction to remain on Bonner Straße from the Gürtel. The cycle path along Bonner Straße will remain open to traffic out of town, and two cycle diversions will be set up to the west and east.
Work on the third construction phase until the end of 2025
At the end of 2025, construction work on the approximately 2.1-kilometre-long section with its four stops is expected to be completed, announced the Cologne Transport Authority. After the final completion of all three construction stages of the north-south urban railway, the travel time from the distribution circle to the main station will be reduced from currently 30 to 13 minutes, which is why the KVB expect "a significant shift from car to public transport“.
Until this happens, however, other sections of the railway project must be completed - and this will not be the case by the end of 2025, when the above-ground section is to be complete. This is because the underground track replacement structure on Severinstrasse, where the city archive collapsed in 2009, has only recently been able to continue construction, or rather: the preliminary work for the renovation of the construction site in preparation for further construction has been able to begin. This is because an intermediate ceiling and other parts that were already finished before the collapse have suffered massively in the almost 13 years since then. On the lowest level of the structure, there was also still work equipment, scaffolding and other things that had to be left there on the day of the accident and were buried under about 7,000 cubic metres, soil, rubble and ballast concrete.
A quarter of a century for four kilometres of railway line
At present, exploratory work is repeatedly being carried out underground in the pit on Severinstraße, and divers are also examining the condition of the site. The Cologne Transport Authority expects the completion of the three-storey track replacement and thus the complete, approximately four-kilometre-long north-south urban railway to be around 2028 or 2029 - a quarter of a century after construction began on 1 January 2004. (Original text: Werner Grosch / Translation: Mareike Graepel)