GERMANY: Deutsche Bahn is checking the condition of around 200 000 prestressed concrete sleepers of a specific type installed at numerous locations across its network. This follows the derailment at Burgrain on June 3 of a Garmisch-Partenkirchen – München train in which five people died and at least 15 were seriously injured.

DB decided to impose immediate speed restrictions or to close lines while checks were made.

DB decided to impose immediate speed restrictions or to close lines while checks were made.

Although the definitive cause of the derailment has yet to be confirmed, DB announced on August 19 that it had decided as a precautionary measure to inspect all sites across the network where identical sleepers had been laid. Initial findings from independent testing bodies indicated that there had been a manufacturing error leading to some sleepers exhibiting ‘irregularities in the material properties’.

DB decided either to impose immediate speed restrictions or to close the line in question while checks were made and defective sleepers replaced. In mid-August this affected 165 locations, predominantly in Bayern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen, with a cluster of instances in the Berlin area. This has led to widespread delays, diversions and cancelled services.

All inspections were due to be completed by the end of August, DB said, but remedial work to replace the sleepers will continue until the end of the year with some routes still affected in early 2023. A taskforce has been set up to co-ordinate resources with priority given ‘to routes that are especially busy and which are important for stable long-distance, regional and freight traffic on the entire network’.

DB has not yet determined the cost of the damage, but it is assuming the figure will be ‘hundreds of millions’. It is considering claims against the sleeper supplier which are being examined by legal specialists; the manufacturer is understood to be Leonhard Moll Betonwerke, a subsidiary of Leonhard Moll AG.