Rehabilitation of the first high-speed lines in Germany
Almost 30 years have passed since the first high-speed railway lines were opened in Germany at the beginning of June 1991. So it’s time to start renewing this infrastructure that is subjected to large loads. In June 2019, this work was started and is planned to be carried out over the next five years.
When Germany’s first high-speed lines from Hanover to Würzburg and from Mannheim to Stuttgart were starting to be built in the 1970s, part of the concept was the suitability for fast passenger and freight transport, the former to be run during the day and the latter during the night, often at close intervals and with a high degree of reliability. Accordingly, the infrastructure on these lines is subjected to extremely high loads. International operation of the ICE trains started at the same time as these “new build lines”, which are largely separate from the remaining network, were constructed for high speeds. The last one of these was opened at the end of 2017. Today, one cannot imagine long-distance railway traffic without ICEs and high-speed lines.
Nearly 30 years of high-performance operation
Deutsche Bahn AG started the inevitable project of rehabilitation, which has been planned in detail for many years, in the North of Germany, on the high-speed line between Hanover and Göttingen. The line will be closed for traffic for 6 months. The high-speed line between Mannheim and Stuttgart will be completely renovated in 2020. In the three years after that, further sections will follow between Göttingen, Kassel, Fulda and Würzburg. One consequence of this project are diversions and longer journey times, the other are the deployment of railway construction machines, know-how and personnel over several months as well as a huge effort in material logistics. The main work will be carried out on tracks and turnouts including the ballast bed, signalling and automatic train control. In some places, the overhead line system will also be renovated or renewed.
First Building phase: 142 kilometres of track
The high-speed line between Hanover and Würzburg is 327 km long, the first section of 89 km to be renewed runs from Hanover to Göttingen. The challenge: complete renovation of both tracks with full closure, setting up storage locations for material logistics, country-wide supply of material transports, co-ordination of the construction workflow, deployment of machines and work trains on a total of 142 km of track. Syndicates were set up, both by the construction companies and on the part of construction supervision. The route runs mostly far away from villages and is elevated, runs in trenches and on railway embankments to keep inclines as low as possible independent of the terrain. Therefore, there are only few connections with the rest of the rail network. The total cost of this first complete rehabilitation of a high-speed line in Germany is forecast to be approx. 175 million Euro.
Permanent way newly constructed
The task requires modern heavy-duty machinery. On the track alone, ballast recycling and track renewal machines (up to four simultaneously) are deployed, followed by rail welding machines, tamping machines, track stabilisers and ballast ploughs. In contrast, the disassembly and re-assembly work on the signalling and automatic train control require a lot of manual work that cannot be automated. Further on, the engineering structures of bridges and tunnels will be included in the renewal work so that the high-speed lines will be available to future generations in the usual reliable manner and can absorb the significantly increasing traffic.
Key data High-speed line Hanover–Würzburg
110 main-line trains daily, 15.5 million passengers per year at up to 280 km/h
Freight traffic at night (approx. 22.00 to 5.00) at up to 160 km/h