Founded in 1900, Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB) is a railway infrastructure company which owns and operates the network of the Heidekrautbahn line (RB27) in the northern Berlin region. As a rail transport company, NEB provides public transport services on a total of eleven regional railway lines in the north and east of Brandenburg and in Berlin: on the Heidekrautbahn (RB27) and the ten lines of the East Brandenburg network.

Interview with Marcus Badow, Head of Controlling & Business Development & Katja Tenkoul, Senior Social Media Manager at NEB Betriebsgesellschaft mbH.

Easy Engineering: What’s the news about current projects?

Marcus Badow & Katja Tenkoul: In 2021, Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn was awarded the renewed contracts to operate the East Brandenburg network from 2024 to 2036 and the Heidekrautbahn (RB27) until 2034.

NEB is currently working on three major projects which are all scheduled to start operations in December, 2024:

  • reactivating the Heidekrautbahn trunk line for public transport services (see further info below)
  • operating alternative-drive vehicles, which includes 
  • seven hydrogen-electice multiple units (HEMU) on the Heidekrautbahn network 
  • 31 battery-electric multiple units (BEMU) on the East Brandenburg network 

With these projects, NEB is at the forefront of the transition of the German public transport sector to expanded railway networks, better service and alternative, sustainable drives. In fact, NEB will be the first rail transport provider in the Berlin-Brandenburg region to operate HEMU and BEMU vehicles in public transport. 

Reactivation of Heidekrautbahn trunk line:

The Heidekrautbahn trunk line is NEB’s original railway line which started in 1901 and runs from the northern part of Berlin into Brandenburg. It has come to be known under its nickname “Heidekrautbahn”, which literally means “heather railway”. The trunk line was severed and partly demolished during the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and since then, has lain dormant. Parts of the Heidekrautbahn, which run through Brandenburg, could be used for transport, however. NEB has been committed to reactivating the trunk line and connecting it to the existing Heidekrautbahn network in operation and we are now beelining for completion. We plan to build eight new stops on the trunk line, which will be operated with hydrogen-powered vehicles, and also extend it to connect it with a major train station in the city of Berlin. As the area through which the line runs is densely populated, tens of thousands of people will profit from the extended Heidekrautbahn network.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

M.B & K.T: There is a strong drive in German politics towards sustainable technologies and providing better services in public transport. Both politics and rail service providers are making an effort to modernize infrastructure, expand railway networks, and promote sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies. NEB has been a leading figure in that transition by starting the aforementioned projects. 

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

M.B & K.T: Both BEMUs and HEMUs will be Mireo Plus type vehicles by manufacturer Siemens Mobility. They run completely emission-free, energy-efficient and are designed to be climate-friendly, for example through the use of sustainable materials as well as acoustic and thermal insulation. Almost all components of the Mireo Plus vehicle type are recyclable.

The same goes for the new hydrogen vehicles. The energy carrier required for this is so-called “green” hydrogen produced by means of electrolysis from wind and solar energy generated in the region. This will enable us to provide emission-free public transport using local renewable energies. 

By using these two new types of vehicles we will save about 4.6 million litres of diesel and almost 12,500 tonnes of CO2 per year.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

M.B & K.T: Start of operations will be December, 2024, so in 2023 we will be working with Siemens Mobility to supervise the manufacturing of the vehicles, and with local authorities to start construction work on the Heidekrautbahn trunk line.