Barbara Geier: UK public transport in Germany
TEXT & PHOTOS: BARBARA GEIER
So, who has heard of Wildenrath? Or Wegberg? According to Wikipedia, “Wildenrath is a township within the municipality of Wegberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The town is situated (…) between Wassenberg and Arsbeck on the edge of Maas-Schwalm-Nette Nature Park” and if you needed any more proof that Germany excels in place names that no one could accuse of rolling off the tongue, now you have it. But I digress. What I actually wanted to say is that this corner of North Rhine-Westphalia, believe it or not, has a direct relation to the UK, more precisely to London and its public transport.
At the start of August, the first new Piccadilly line train was tested at the Siemens-owned ‘Wegberg-Wildenrath Test and Validation Centre’, which the company operates on a former RAF airfield near Wildenrath. The new Piccadilly line fleet is set to replace the current one with its 48-year-old trains in 2025 and features walk-through carriages, wider all-double doorways, improved step-free access onto the platform and – hooray! – air-cooling as the first deep-level tube. Now, I’m not a trainspotter nor particularly interested in things such as acceleration and brake testing or noise and vibration trials (apparently, that’s what they did there in North Rhine-Westphalia) but what I liked about this story was the unusual sight of – literal – UK public transport in Germany. In fact, not only in Germany but also in Austria.
When the first train of the new fleet came off the Siemens Mobility production line in Vienna at the end of July and was ready for testing, it obviously had to make its way to the Test and Validation Centre in Germany. This led to the rare sight of a Transport for London underground train on rail tracks in mainland Europe. Needless to say, the aforementioned trainspotters had a field day with photos popping up in all kinds of places. I even saw one on LinkedIn with someone wishing for a direct Piccadilly Line from Germany to London. Well, we might have to wait a little longer for that but in the meantime, it’s good to see that, in post-Brexit times, the UK and Europe are still “on track” together. And to all UK trainspotters: Keep your eyes peeled. While the first units of the altogether 94 new Piccadilly Line trains are being “born” in Austria, around half of the trains will actually be assembled at Siemens Mobility’s new factory in Yorkshire and will have to make their way to London at some point…
Barbara Geier is a London-based freelance writer, translator and communications consultant. She is also the face behind www.germanyiswunderbar.com, a German travel and tourism guide and blog that was set up together with UK travel writer Andrew Eames in 2010. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany, Switzerland & Austria.
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