The island's only connection to the mainland is via a railway, which runs on a causeway, and cars have been carried on trains ever since the line opened in the 1930s.
From December 2015, DB is proposing a 30-minute frequency for Sylt Shuttle services and to enable cyclists and pedestrians to use the service (currently only available to those with motor vehicles) and plans to add a modified DMU to every departure.
The DMUs - likely to be refurbished Class 628 two-car sets previously used by DB Regio, will have space for bikes and will operate hourly between Westerland and Husum, 39km south of Niebüll, with some services running as far south as Hamburg. The DMUs will be coupled to the locomotive-hauled Sylt Shuttle trains between Niebüll and Westerland.
DB says that the DMU services will operate in addition to the four existing inter-city services, which link Westerland with other German cities. The new services will be operated on a commercial basis as regional passenger trains between Niebüll and Westerland are also provided by the Schleswig Holstein regional government. The current operator of these services is Transdev subsidiary NOB although the contract is currently being tendered for the period from December 2016.
DB's proposals are clearly a response to the impending arrival of a new competitor. The German subsidiary of Railroad Development Corporation, United States, is planning to launch a competing car carrying service linking Sylt with the mainland in December 2015.
However, this will be on a more limited basis than originally planned after the German Federal Networks Agency instructed infrastructure manager DB Networks not to not sign draft agreements for train paths on the route earlier this year. RDC had also planned a 30-minute frequency for car and lorry-carrying shuttles.
The route has limited capacity as 22.2km of the 39.3km line is single track and the maximum capacity is assessed as four trains per hour in each direction due to the single track sections and old mechanical signalling system.
The Federal Networks Agency will make a final decision on the allocation of paths in August.