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DB is working with the Federal Government to develop a high-performance network. How do they plan to improve the reliability and growth of the railroads?

DB is working with the Federal Government to develop a high-performance network. How do they plan to improve the reliability and growth of the railroads?
foto: Deutsche Bahn/DB is working with the Federal Government to develop a high-performance network. How do they plan to improve the reliability and growth of the railroads?
23 / 06 / 2022

Yesterday in Berlin, Federal Transport Minister Dr Volker Wissing and Deutsche Bahn CEO Dr Richard Lutz presented plans for a new high-performance network. The background to this 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 infrastructure.

The high-performance network is to comprise the most heavily used rail links in Germany. Today, these cover around 10 per cent of the whole network. Around 25 per cent of all trains already pass through this network. In addition, it already has an average capacity utilization of around 125 per cent, even without construction work. Based on the forecast traffic development, the length of this highly congested network is expected to grow from about 3,500 kilometres at present to more than 9,000 kilometres by the end of this decade.

DB CEO Dr Richard Lutz: "The confluence of more and more traffic on an already insufficient infrastructure further restricted by construction activity is leading to congestion and delays with a massive impact on all customers in passenger and freight transport. The current operating quality does not meet our requirements. There can be no business as usual. A sustainable solution lies in the infrastructure because 80 per cent 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 traffic - from a problem case to an anchor of quality and stability for the entire infrastructure. We are making massive investments in this area without cutting back on maintenance and modernization in the regions. In this way, we are laying the foundations for the urgently needed growth in the rail sector to enable the German government to achieve its climate targets. The close cooperation between the federal government, the railroads and the industry in defining and implementing the multi-year program are particularly crucial to us."

The intensity of use on the German rail network has increased by more than 60 per cent since the 1994 rail reform by 2021. 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 highly congested network. As capacity utilization increases, congestion effects and unpunctuality grow exponentially.

Using a general overhaul of the most important rail corridors, the highly congested network is now to develop into an anchor of stability for the entire rail network by 2030. Disruptions on these lines will be greatly reduced, and the infrastructure will become much more robust. In addition, new capacities following the work will create additional space for more climate-friendly rail traffic. Freight and passenger customers will notice a significant before-and-after difference. The industry will benefit from first-class freight corridors. Passengers will also see an increase in the attractiveness of the stations. Rail transport companies and public authorities will be able to offer better services after the general refurbishment.  

According to DB's plans, the general overhaul of the high-performance network will involve all outdated and fault-prone facilities' complete replacement and improvement. It will comprehensively eliminate the investment backlog here. The high-performance network has a first-class standard of equipment - full-coverage track replacement, fewer level crossings, and sufficient overtaking and passing points to 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 better performing and more reliable. Prevention and prediction provide predictive maintenance and are complemented by 24/7 high-power fault clearance. Diagnostic systems continuously provide information on the status of availability-relevant equipment. It enables the equipment to be serviced as part of planned maintenance work without disrupting operations before faults occur. The fully refurbished lines will be pre-equipped for Digital Rail Germany.

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 switches, signals and signal boxes, and platforms will be bundled and completely rehabilitated in the future. Up to now, the refurbishment of rails, overhead lines and signalling equipment has been carried out primarily based on the condition and age of the equipment. Financing is also geared to this. However, this approach is not customer-friendly. On the same line, different trades 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 be given a first-class equipment standard. A lot of small and medium-sized additional measures will also be implemented 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. Until now, pure 1:1 replacement has been the rule.  

  • Customer-friendly construction

Together with the construction industry, high-density and capacity-saving construction methods are being implemented. The restrictions of a construction measure for the economy and the 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.

High performance and low susceptibility to faults in the high-performance network positively influence the quality throughout the network via the long-distance transport routes. The experience gained with general rehabilitation from the high-load network, with more considerable bundling, improved equipment standards and small and medium-sized measures for rapid capacity expansion, is to be transferred to the rest of the network wherever possible and appropriate. 

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 business community 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. 

To stabilize and improve the operating situation immediately before the start of the general overhaul, those elements of the high-performance network that can already be implemented in the short term will be brought forward. Closure times will be better bundled and peaks in the construction load smoothed to a greater extent, detour routes will be made more usable, and higher-quality and more robust elements will already be installed wherever possible. DB is increasing its annual preventive maintenance budget by a significant three-digit million number. It will make it easier to avoid minor disruptions in particular. By communicating early and comprehensively, DB is ensuring greater planning predictability for the responsible authorities, the rail transport companies and their customers.

 

Source: DB Press Releases

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