Riedbahn renewal to kick off the general overhaul of Germany’s rail network
The upcoming general overhaul of the Deutsche Bahn (DB) rail network is the largest infrastructure program since the German Rail Reform in 1994. The goals are clear: greater capacity, better punctuality, and high-quality technology that’s ready for the future. All of these aspects are intended to help to advance the decarbonization of transport and climate-friendly mobility in Germany in the decades to come.
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The first step is the renewal of the Riedbahn corridor. With over 300 freight and passenger trains daily, this busy route is one of the most heavily used high-performance corridors in the German rail infrastructure. The maximum capacity utilization of the Riedbahn makes it a bottleneck in the rail network that is especially in need of an overhaul and upgrade. Following intense preparation and a three-week closure for prep work at the beginning of the year, the 70-kilometer link between Frankfurt am Main and Mannheim will undergo extensive modernization and renewal between July and November 2024.
Modern infrastructure and upgraded stations
Deutsche Bahn plans to update a large number of components and equipment during the extensive modernization of the line between Frankfurt and Mannheim. The aim is not only to modernize the current condition of the line, but to upgrade it as well.
Specific measures include replacing 1,200 pieces of control-command and signaling equipment and renewing 152 switches and 117 kilometers of track. In addition, four railroad crossings and 140 kilometers of overhead lines are being modernized. More than 10 kilometers of noise barriers will be completely renewed in order to minimize the impact on residents and nature over the long term. The addition of three new crossovers is intended to increase the line’s capacity by creating alternative routes for trains running at the same time, thus offering multiple closely spaced crossover options along the entire route. Work will also take place on a disused railroad crossing and a railroad crossing replaced by a bridge.
Construction is not limited to the rail network, however. The 20 stations along the route are also undergoing extensive improvements. Architectural examples of these improvements include new roofs over platforms, expanded protection against the elements, new and modernized underpasses, ramps, and adjusted platform height for accessibility. Station interiors are also being modernized to offer passengers improved signage and modern lighting concepts in the future. By grouping engineering works together during the full closure, the infrastructure can be worked on around the clock, allowing for an efficient overhaul concept.
Special features of the Riedbahn
The overhaul of the Riedbahn corridor poses particular challenges for the companies involved. It is worth noting that the Riedbahn is a high-performance corridor, not a high-speed line. This means that railroad crossings, sidings and various small stations have an enormous impact on train operations. The number of potential sources of disruptions to daily train service and construction progress is therefore significantly higher than on a high-speed line.
There are two continuous challenges that need to be factored in so that the engineering works can be planned and implemented on time. On the one hand, it is important to keep night-time freight traffic running as smoothly as possible and to make sure hazardous goods can safely reach their destination, for example. Daily acceptances and partial commissioning are planned so that this can be ensured. On the other hand, implementing electronic interlocking technology (ESTW) on the line at the same time as the general overhaul also poses a challenge. Modern electronic interlocking technology makes it possible to control and monitor outdoor equipment from far away. Centralization of signal boxes at one computer-based interlocking tower will therefore make it easier to monitor and manage large regional areas, and this is planned for the central interlocking towers in Mannheim-Waldhof, Gernsheim and Walldorf.
Modern equipment for a Strong Rail
The general overhaul of the Riedbahn promises to add significant value for passengers and freight transport. The modernization of the infrastructure and the introduction of new high-performance components are expected to reduce infrastructure-related disruptions by over 80%. This will help to improve punctuality and increase the capacity of the line, not least thanks to new passing routes for trains running in parallel. Station accessibility is also being improved, and stations are getting a fresh new look.
Our expertise is needed
DB E&C is playing an important role in this project by contributing its expertise, including services in design, construction supervision, environmental and geoservices, and validation and assessment. Here is one concrete example: In order to ensure a detailed survey of the area and seamless construction supervision, DB E&C’s scope of services includes drone flights over the entire route, including the sidings, as well as 360° video recordings of the stations, culverts and railroad overpasses.