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Image:U-Bahn-Logo.pngU-Bahn is the German abbreviation for Untergrund-Bahn (literally, underground railway), referring to a means of urban rapid transit, internationally known as subway, underground or metro. The term was created at the beginning of the 20th century in Berlin, where the Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft (German Imperial Railways Company) (predecessor of today's Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railways Inc.)) created a system of urban and suburban railway lines with fast electric trains and short service intervals, called the S-Bahn (abrev. for Schnellbahn (Fast Railways)). The Hochbahngesellschaft (Elevated Railways Company), operating elevated and subterranean urban lines, decided they also need an equally short and memorable name for their system, and thus called it U-Bahn, for Untergrundbahn (Underground Railways). The symbol for the U-Bahn is a white "U" in a blue square.

The name was soon adopted for Hamburg's city-owned street-independent mass transit lines. (There was also a Reichsbahn-owned and operated S-Bahn in Hamburg).

Hamburg, Berlin U-Bahn, Nuremberg, and Munich fit the criteria for a metro. (Fast, electrically operated trains, completely independent from other traffic). One line in Frankfurt also meets these criteria.

As the Post-World War II rebuilding led to some wealth and prosperity in West Germany, the German car fanaticism motivated many larger city councils to plan the replacement of the "car traffic obstructing" tramways with U-Bahn systems and additional Bus lines. Nuremberg and Munich decided for a full subway (like those in Berlin and Hamburg) independent from their existing tramways. The tramways were meant to be abandoned in the 1990s.

Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Köln (Cologne), Bonn, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Bochum, Essen, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Hanover and Bielefeld started to build tunnels for their existing tramway cars, rebuilding existing tramway lines under ground. Those systems of classical tramways routed through tunnels in downtown areas do not meet the criteria for a metro; they are light rail systems. Nonetheless, they are usually referred to as U-Bahn. Officially, they are called Stadtbahn (City Railways) or U-Stadtbahn.

During the 1990s (when, according to original planning, the tramways of Nuremberg and Munich were scheduled to disappear) a reorientation process set in. Shortage of money, increased rider numbers, and the insight that larger streets only attract even more cars slowed the building of subway lines and led to a renaissance of the tramways in those cities that had forgotten them. In Nuremberg and Munich, after 30 years new rolling stock was purchased, existing lines were modernized, and new ones were built, leading to new integrated traffic concepts. Today, Berlin and Munich both have not only buses, but also tramway, S-Bahn, and U-Bahn systems, each with non-shared tracks and different vehicles.


German cities with U-Bahn systems


Austrian cities with U-Bahn systems

German cities with light rail (Stadtbahn) systems

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