INTRO: This month Infraspeed should receive a Certificate of Availability following completion of the southern section of HSL-Zuid. Trials at the line speed of 300 km/h were due to be completed last month, while testing on the northern section will finish in the autumn

SWEEPING across the flat Dutch landscape between the Belgian border and Rotterdam is the alignment of the southern section of HSL-Zuid. During recent weeks the line has been prepared for its future role with different types of test train carrying out a series of trials.

Designed for 300 km/h, the line has been equipped by the Infraspeed consortium consisting of Fluor, Siemens, BAM, HSBC Infrastructure and Innisfree Nominees (RG 4.05 p203). Infraspeed is committed to make the line available to the operator, High Speed Alliance, and this month it expects to receive a Certificate of Availability from the High Speed Line Project Organisation, the government body responsible for developing and managing the scheme.

Project management for the railway equipment contract was in the hands of Fluor, while track, noise barriers and building foundations were handled by BAM. Siemens was responsible for electrical, communications and other specialist equipment - its share of the contract covered the 25 kV 50Hz power supply with autotransformer feeding, Level 2 ETCS with Level 1 as backup, GSM-R and emergency communications systems, Simis W interlockings, point machines and axle-counters. Siemens is also providing safety equipment such as tunnel ventilation, lighting and flood protection, as well as fire alarm and fire-fighting apparatus.

The line is fully separated from the surrounding area by a combination of fencing, sound barriers and ditches. No less than 100 km of sound barriers have had to be built to meet noise regulations, and in one case these are up to 9m high. Train noise measured on the outside wall of a house must not exceed 57dB(A), while the internal noise level is limited to 37dB(A); in some cases this required additional insulation measures.

Safety measures

Following a risk assessment, the contractors decided to provide derailment mitigation on the track over approximately half the alignment. This consists of a concrete plinth placed between the rails, so reducing the possibility of a derailed train leaving the alignment. On some viaducts and at other critical locations concrete upstands between the two tracks and at the sides are intended to prevent a derailed train from fouling the other track or being thrown to the side.

HSL-Zuid has several significant tunnels. On the southern section there is a 2·5 km immersed tube under the Dordtsche Kil, with a tunnel of similar length, also partly consisting of an immersed tube, below the Oude Maas further to the north. The northern section includes the 7·2 km Groene Hart tunnel, while there is a 4 km tunnel north of Rotterdam.

All tunnels have two separate tubes apart from the Groene Hart tunnel which was cut as a single 16m diameter bore using the world’s largest tunnel boring machine. In the centre of the bore is a dividing wall in which fire-resistant doors are located at 150m intervals. The doors have been designed to withstand a temperature of 1000°C for 1h - the cost per door is €30000. The tunnel structures and other equipment are also required to resist fire for at least 4h.

Safety regulations mean that passengers must be able to escape from a tunnel within 15min, and escape shafts are therefore located at intervals of 2 km. Special access areas are provided at ground level for the emergency services.

HSL-Zuid had to be built to preclude the possibility of subsidence in soft ground. Much of the route uses concrete slabs mounted on piles driven deep into the ground, in some cases by up to 35m.

Test programme

The first dynamic trials took place last year, initially with a vehicle known as Jules that was hauled by a diesel locomotive at a maximum speed of 40 km/h to check the GSM-R communications. Next on the track was a diesel railbus previously used in Germany for catenary inspection; this was also used to test the GSM-R and the track-mounted Eurobalises. This was followed by a UFM120 track geometry and catenary inspection vehicle able to run at 120 km/h.

Earlier this year Siemens began tests with a four-system ES64U4 Taurus locomotive. This was able to check the transition from the new line’s 25 kV 50Hz electrification to the 1·5 kV DC overhead line equipment at the junctions with the ProRail network.

The loco was also used to verify catenary and track geometry at higher speeds, for which purpose it was married with a track recording and a catenary inspection car on hire from DB Systemtechnik. During these trials an official speed record of 258 km/h was established. This was overtaken shortly afterwards by an unofficial record of 263 km/h when the locomotive was running with no inspection cars.

That record has also passed into history. A Thalys trainset modified with Level 2 ETCS equipment arrived on the test section on February 13, and attained the maximum line speed of 300 km/h eight days later before establishing a new Dutch record of 336·2 km/h on March 2.

Trials with the Thalys set included a number of cross-border runs into Belgium; HSL-Zuid meets a 35 km section of Belgian high speed line at Hazeldonk, providing a high speed route to Antwerpen and beyond.

CAPTION: Paired with track and catenary inspection cars, this Siemens four-system ES64U4 Taurus locomotive was used for a variety of testing tasks Photo: Thomas Schwanse

CAPTION: Concrete upstands beside each track at critical locations are designed to prevent a train from fouling the adjacent track or leaving the alignment

CAPTION: ABOVE: The yellow ETCS balise reader is clearly visible below the locomotive

ABOVE RIGHT: The Eurobalises are set into slots in the precast concrete derailment mitigation plinth in the centre of each track

Photos: Thomas Schwanse

CAPTION: Flood protection doors are provided where the line runs through dykes built to prevent the spread of floods in the low-lying countryside. They will be used only in a dire emergency

Photo: Thomas Schwanse