SAt a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony, the sand that had been piled up especially for this occasion was thrown into the air as enthusiastically as it was on Monday when construction of the Regionaltangente West (RTW) started. It is one of the most important rail infrastructure projects in the region. One day, two-system city railways are to run from Bad Homburg via Eschborn and Frankfurt-Höchst to the airport and on via Neu-Isenburg to Buchschlag station in Dreieich. There is a reason for the enthusiasm: everyone in charge can refer to a point in time in recent years when, despite thirty years of discussion, the project was once again “on the razor’s edge”, as Frankfurt’s head of mobility Stefan Majer (Die Grünen) confessed.
He himself, a committed transport and regional politician, sometimes thought: “Then this regional project will hit a wall.” Because this economically prosperous and therefore attractive Rhine-Main region can do almost anything, only in regional cooperation do they do it municipalities difficult. According to Majer, Frankfurt was also critical of the project. After all, the Regionaltangente does not lead into Frankfurt, but through the west of Frankfurt and thus past the city center. For many politicians, it was inconceivable that they would spend significant sums to do so. The breakthrough only came when EU funding was on the cards.
Good rail connections are essential for the future
However, according to Hesse’s Transport Minister Tarek Al-Wazir, the tangential connection has always been missing in the Rhine-Main region. Something that has existed in Berlin, for example, for 100 years, according to the Green Minister: the direct connection between the centers in the surrounding area. That should now exist, including the connection of large workplaces such as the Höchst industrial park and the airport. For years it has been noticeable that the capacities on the road, but also in local public transport, are not sufficient.
That’s why the construction of the Regionaltangente West is “really good news for people’s mobility in the Frankfurt-Rhine-Main region,” said Al-Wazir. And announced that the construction of the first section, which extends from Kelsterbach via the airport to Dreieich-Buchschlag, is more than just the beginning of the 50-kilometer RTW. “The current groundbreaking is the starting signal for a rail ring around Frankfurt,” said the minister, with a regional tangent east and a regional tangent south initiated by the municipalities in the Offenbach district.
The cities in the surrounding area have long been aware that it is essential for their future viability and that of the region to have good rail connections. The RTW is not the only rail project that is keeping the region busy. Al-Wazir referred to the Gateway Gardens S-Bahn station, which opened at the end of 2019, the four-track expansion of the S 6 to Bad Vilbel and the North Main S-Bahn. It applies to all projects that they have been discussed for years, but are now being implemented. “More rail services are needed in Rhein-Main.”
“Milestone for the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund”
To do this, all questions from citizens, but also those from local and state politicians, would have to be answered, after all “a lot of money comes from public budgets”. The costs of the RTW alone are estimated at 1.1 billion euros. The first construction phase is calculated at 185 million euros. While Al-Wazir called the ground-breaking ceremony for the Regionaltangente West a “historic day”, RMV boss Knut Ringat spoke of a “milestone for the Rhine-Main transport association”. The capacities of the Frankfurt S-Bahn tunnel and the main train station are exhausted.
Ringat was convinced that it would soon be able to pick up passenger numbers where the RMV was in 2019, i.e. before Corona, namely with 2.5 million passengers a day. The aim is to increase the numbers by a third by 2030. In order to have the capacities for this, “we need the decade of construction,” says Ringat. Claudia Jäger, first district councilor of the district of Offenbach, referred to the achievements of the RTW planning company with its committed managing directors.
Without “the strong RTW team”, whose performance is exemplary, the project would not have reached the stage of construction, she said. Especially since it was a hard piece of work, especially by Managing Director Horst Ammann, to “bring the municipalities, the state of Hesse and Deutsche Bahn under one RTW hat,” said the CDU politician. Looking back, she spoke of a “long, rocky road” up to the groundbreaking ceremony this Monday. And Al-Wazir admitted that it was an “emotional moment” for him, after all he sometimes thought: “It will never work”.
Commentary on the topic: And next the Regionaltangente East