GERMANY’s first fleet of new battery EMUs (BEMUs) entered passenger service in the northernmost state of Schleswig Holstein in late October. Introduction into passenger service was originally planned for December 2022 but problems with approval resulted in delays.

The first trains are operating in Kiel on the short non-electrified suburban rail route between the main station and Kiel Oppendorf, which has been operated by Errix Holstein since October 23.

Operation on longer regional routes is planned in November in advance of the timetable change in December from when Errix Holstein will use 26 of the trains on routes that include Kiel - Lübeck - Lüneburg. However, it is unclear exactly when all 26 trains will be in service; Errix Holstein has previously told local media that introduction could take place throughout 2024.

The state’s public transport authority, NAH.SH, has bought 55 of the two-car BEMUs, which it will lease to rail operator contractors for use across the state where most regional rail lines are not electrified.

The Schleswig Holstein government had envisaged buying hydrogen powered trains when drawing up plans to replace diesel trains in 2015 but the BEMU option was found to be far more economic. Introduction of the entire fleet is expected to lead to a reduction in diesel consumption of around 10 million litres a year.

DB Network has invested in several small extensions of overhead electrification in the Kiel area to support introduction of the new BEMU fleet. These electrification islands - effectively electrified station platforms - are enabling the BEMUs to recharge during and at the end of journeys. The trains are designed to operate for up to 150km between recharges.

Each of the new trains has 123 seats, similar to the DMUs they are replacing. The batteries are located in roof-mounted sections so they don’t reduce capacity inside the train.

Multiple BEMU fleets will be introduced in Germany over the next two years. Siemens Mireo BEMUs will enter service on regional routes from Offenburg serving the Black Forest in December and Alstom-built Coradia Continental BEMUs are scheduled to run operate Leipzig - Chemnitz services in early 2024.

Spanish train manufacturer CAF is also building a big fleet of BEMUs for operation in the Ruhr region from late 2025.

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