Report on Air//Rail 2009
Marriott Courtyard Hotel -
Hamburg Airport
23-25 June 2009 
(Report taken from IARO's August Issue AirRail Express)

 If you missed this conference, you missed an excellent event! The papers are available to purchase on a USB flash drive (contact IARO for details), but they will only give you half of the flavour!

We had a wide range of delegates from 14 countries – and the Managing Director of Hamburg airport proudly added Switzerland to our tally. There was a lot of networking, a lot of discussion, a lot of exchanging of business cards and a lot of sharing of experiences.

We started with a site visit to the new Airport Plaza – a new central security area between the two terminals – and the terminals themselves. This had opened in 2008.

The airport handled 12.8 million passengers in 2008: it is owned by the City of Hamburg (50.1%), Aer Rianta (10%) and Hochtief. It has a night curfew, and a peak for departures at around 7:00 in the morning.

The new S-Bahn, which opened on 11 December 2008, was carrying between 13,500 and 15,000 passengers a day – a mode share of approximately 26%.

The airport has in mind a regional rail connection to the north – initially a short-distance one to Neuminster and Kiel, but ultimately with a connection deeper into Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark. They get a lot of passengers from Denmark: fares from Hamburg are much lower than from Copenhagen airport.

The rail mode is very valuable: they have 10,000 parking spaces and on some peak days these can be virtually full.

We were then taken down to the S-Bahn for a guided tour courtesy of Hamburg S-Bahn.
Signage for the railway starts in the baggage reclaim area, with advertising and free-standing information panels giving details of the train service. One of these explains the basic fares to the city. Another shows the time until the next two departures for the city and their destination: beneath this is a departure screen showing the next 17 main-line departures from Hamburg Hbf with their time, destination and route.

Signage within the terminals is unobtrusive: we found the colour contrast to lack clarity.
There are two main entrances to the S-Bahn – one from the arrivals area of each terminal – as well as two impressive and spacious lifts from departures level. Lifts, escalators and stairs take you down first to the ticketing level with ticket machines and then to the trains level. There are two platforms with comprehensive flight information displays giving both arrivals and departures.

There was usually a train in the platform: the signage did not seem to extend to telling you how long it was until departure, so on coming down to the platform it wasn’t clear whether you had time to stroll to the train or had to run! However, this information was available at other stations on the network (usually in English and German).

Trains are formed of modern suburban rolling stock, comfortable and bright although with no formal luggage space.

On leaving the airport they run through a 3 kilometre tunnel to Ohlsdorf, the station from which one used to have to catch the bus shuttle. Apparently the tunnel runs under the main road: since this is the property of the City of Hamburg there was no cost of land acquisition!

At Ohlsdorf, the 3-car trains combine with another 3-car train from a suburb to the north. Coupling and uncoupling seems to be very speedily done, with the aid of Scharfenburg couplers and some efficient electronics. We timed one train arriving from the airport: the combined 6-car train left Ohlsdorf for the city 3.5 minutes after the first 3-car train had arrived. We stood in the first half while the second half joined – we hardly noticed the bump.

A problem with signage in the opposite direction is that it says “Front three cars for the airport” – which is fine if you know which way the trains are going!
We were given a guided tour of the very impressive City Hall, and this was followed by a reception.

The conference next day started with a welcome from the Managing Director of Hamburg Airport, and a review of the Hamburg scene – the airport and the development of its railway. Apparently until 1974 there was a tram (light rail) service to the airport: this was mainly used by sight-seers. Use of taxi as an access mode has dropped with the introduction of the S-Bahn – from just under 29% to just over 3% - but the S-Bahn has had virtually no impact on usage of the car parks at the airport.

Combined ticketing options are being evaluated, where passengers with a flight coupon will be able to use the railway to access the airport free of charge.

We then had a useful discussion about provisions for passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs). It was valuable to have presentations from a major US airline (Delta), Hamburg airport, and a European expert (Ann Frye, now a consultant but formerly with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee DPTAC) on this topic.

After lunch we heard about managing in the downturn – what do you do when the credit crunch hits your traffic? The day finished with a review of recent research in the air rail field, including demand modelling and information systems.

Next day, we had a half-day workshop on Managing Disruption. Guidance on this had been asked for by Airport Express Oslo at the 2008 Annual General Meeting: we are working on a report on the subject and the outcome of the workshop will help.

Thanks to Per Thorstenson of Arlanda Express, we had a major presentation from Magnus Bödegard, a doctor who was advisor to both Stockholm Arlanda airport and Arlanda Express. This gave us a lot of valuable background on what people do under stress and why they do it. This led in to a useful round-table discussion from people with a wide range of experiences. This will all be synthesised into a report – although it may take a while to complete!

The City of Hamburg was very welcoming in its weather – we experienced almost unbroken sunshine. After the half-day workshop, some delegates went into the city and saw the famous “Miniatur Wunderland” – reputedly the largest train-set in the world. Well, maybe it was – but it certainly seemed to have the smallest airpor

Information about the S-Bahn connection to Hamburg Airport

Click HERE for further information about the opening the S-Bahn connection

Click HERE for the latest news release about the Hamburg Airport development

Click HERE for the latest news release about the S-Bahn connection