Deutsche Bahn and federal government plan to further develop high-performance network, the backbone of rail transport in Germany

Published on 24/06/2022

The main reason for this step is the current reliability and quality problems of rail as a mode of transport. At their core, they result from a capacity and obsolescence problem in the railways.

Deutsche Bahn and federal government plan to further develop high-performance network, the backbone of rail transport in Germany
@deutschebahn.com

The high-performance network is to comprise the most heavily loaded rail connections in Germany. Today, these cover about 10 percent of the total network. Around 25 percent of all trains already pass through this network today. In addition, it already has an average capacity utilization of about 125 percent without construction activities. Due to the forecast traffic development, the length of this highly loaded network will grow from currently about 3,500 kilometers to probably more than 9,000 kilometers by the end of this decade.

"The confluence of more and more traffic on an already scarce infrastructure that is further restricted by construction activity leads to congestion and delays with massive effects on all customers in passenger and freight transport. The current quality of service does not meet our requirements. There can be no 'business as usual'. A sustainable solution lies in the infrastructure because 80 percent of the quality of the railway system is decided on the rail network. That is why the federal government and DB are developing the highly congested network into a high-performance network. It is becoming the backbone for passenger and rail freight transport - from a problem case to an anchor of quality and stability for the entire infrastructure," Richard Lutz, CEO of Deutsche Bahn explains. 

The intensity of use on the German rail network has increased by more than 60 percent between 1994 and 2021 since the railway reform. The increasing demand is being met by a route network and stations that have not grown with it. At the same time, the condition of the infrastructure has deteriorated because many tracks, switches, bridges, and signal boxes are old and therefore prone to breakdowns. To push ahead with modernization, construction is taking place at record levels. However, these construction measures cost additional capacity, which is particularly painful on the heavily loaded network. With increasing capacity utilization, congestion effects and unpunctuality grow exponentially.

Three decisive and new elements apply to the general rehabilitation of the highly stressed corridors:

  • Bundling of all construction measures: Sleepers and ballast, tracks and points, signals and interlockings, and platforms will be bundled and completely refurbished in the future. Up to now, the rehabilitation of rails, overhead lines, and signaling technology has primarily been carried out depending on the condition and age of the facilities. The financing is also geared to this. However, this approach is not customer-friendly. On the same line, different sections have to be replaced one after the other. In the future, the line will be closed once, after which it will be virtually free of construction for many years.
  • Increasing performance: The high-performance corridors will receive a first-class standard of equipment. Many small and medium-sized additional measures will also be realized here, as proposed by the industry. The corridors will thus become an anchor for stability and growth in the rail network. They can accommodate more trains without any negative impact on punctuality. So far, pure "1:1 replacement" has been the rule. 
  • Customer: friendly construction: Together with the construction industry, high-density and capacity-saving construction methods are implemented. The restrictions of a construction measure for the economy and passengers are thus significantly reduced. For the first time, the federal government is providing additional funds for customer-friendly construction. Customer-friendly construction will be extended to the high-performance network.

Using a general refurbishment of the most important rail corridors, the highly congested network is now to develop into an anchor of stability for the entire railway by 2030. Disruptions on these routes will be greatly reduced and the infrastructure will become much more robust. In addition, new capacities after the work will create additional space for more climate-friendly transport by rail. Customers of freight and passenger transport will notice a clear before-and-after difference. The industry will benefit from first-class freight corridors. For passengers, the attractiveness of the stations will also be increased. Rail transport companies and public authorities will be able to offer better service after the general refurbishment.

DB CEO Richard Lutz: "We are investing massively here and at the same time not cutting back on maintenance and modernization in the regions. In this way, we are laying the foundation for the urgently needed growth of the railways to make the climate targets of the Federal Government possible. The solidarity between the federal government, the railways, and the industry in the concretization and implementation of the multi-year program are particularly important to us."

Using a general renovation of the most important rail corridors, the highly loaded network is now to develop into an anchor of stability for the entire railway by 2030. Disruptions on these routes will be greatly reduced and the infrastructure will become significantly more robust. In addition, new capacities after the work will create additional space for more climate-friendly transport by rail. Customers of freight and passenger transport will notice a clear before-and-after difference. The industry will benefit from first-class freight corridors. For passengers, the attractiveness of the stations will also be increased. Rail transport companies and public authorities will be able to offer better service after the general refurbishment.

@deutschebahn.com
@deutschebahn.com

According to DB's plans, the general refurbishment of the high-performance network will completely replace and improve all outdated and failure-prone facilities. This will comprehensively eliminate the investment backlog here. The high-performance network has a first-class standard of equipment: comprehensive track replacement, fewer level crossings, and sufficient overtaking and passing points make rail operations more robust in the face of unforeseen disruptions. The high-performance network has more reserves and equipment components are used that are significantly more performant and reliable. Prevention and prediction ensure predictive maintenance and are complemented by 24/7 high-power fault clearance. Diagnostic systems continuously provide information on the status of the availability-relevant equipment. This makes it possible to maintain the facilities within the scope of planned maintenance work without disrupting operations before faults occur. The generally refurbished lines are pre-equipped for Digital Rail Germany.

The general rehabilitation of the first rail corridor is to start in 2024. The selection and concrete implementation are to be carried out together with the rail sector and the economy in close coordination. The Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport and Deutsche Bahn want to jointly invite the industry and develop the high-performance network in close cooperation. 

Karel Novak

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