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Nürnberg - München in one hour

01 Nov 2003

Germany's second 300 km/h route, now under construction between Nürnberg and Ingolstadt, opens in 2006. Ralf Roman Rossberg reports

IN 2006 the World Cup football championship comes to Germany. By that time the first trains will be running on a much faster route between Nürnberg and München, with the northern section between Nürnberg and Ingolstadt consisting of Germany's second line built for trains to travel at 300 km/h. South of Ingolstadt the existing route is being upgraded.

The 171 km line between Nürnberg and München forms part of the Berlin - Roma corridor designated as Project 1 in the EU's Trans-European Networks programme. Within Germany, the corridor now has tremendous importance as a link between the capital and the Land capital of Bavaria. Electrification began during the Hitler era, but the Second World War meant that the wires never progressed north of Leipzig. The Iron Curtain was then drawn across the route, and only since German reunification have the lengthy journey times been considered as unacceptable.

Today the fastest trip by ICE between Berlin and München takes 6h 18min, including a change at Fulda. The route involves a long detour via Braunschweig and Hildesheim, but a journey over the geographically more direct route through Leipzig takes 35min longer.

DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn is determined to change this. A public comment that train trips taking more than 4h are 'torture' led to critics misunderstanding what Mehdorn intended to convey. 'We are not in any way recommending that air travel is better for longer journeys; rather we are saying that trips between the most important cities should take no more than 4h', he explained. Mehdorn considers that Berlin - München should take around 31/2h, split into 11/2h from Berlin to Leipzig, 1h from there to Nürnberg and 1h more to München.

Upgrading and new line sections

After reunification, the northern part of the corridor was designated as one of the German unity projects, and a programme of upgrading with sections of new line was drawn up. Much upgrading work has been completed between Berlin, Halle and Leipzig. This line is being fitted with ETCS Level 2, allowing trains to run at 200 km/h.

Southwest of Leipzig a new line is being built to Erfurt, and the first 23 km section to Gr?€?bers opened on June 30; it includes a new station at Leipzig airport.

A funding package worth €1·9bn for the next 100 km section was agreed by Mehdorn and Federal Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe on June 20 in Berlin, but completion is not expected until 2015. Building a new alignment through the Thüringer forest will bring the greatest time savings on the whole corridor. Work was well in hand until progress was suddenly halted in 1998 after a change of government; before the 2002 election Chancellor Gerhard Schr?€?der promised that work would resume, but while this promise will be kept, the line is unlikely to be finished until 2017. For the record, the parallel motorway including the 8 km Rennsteig tunnel opened on July 5 2003.

South to Ingolstadt

Between Nürnberg and Ingolstadt a completely new line designed for 300 km/h is under construction. There are sections of new track south of Ingolstadt too, but improvements over most of this section will be limited to upgrading of the present alignment for 200 km/h.

Nearly two decades will have passed by the time the Nürnberg - München section is completed; the route was included in the National Transport Infrastructure Plan as long ago as 1985, and the original intention was to build a new line all the way between the two cities. Years of haggling over the route followed, with local politicians in Augsburg pressing for the 30 km longer route through that city to be chosen - even though only the shorter alignment via Ingolstadt would achieve the desired time savings.

Fresh impetus came after the Iron Curtain fell. Even so, insufficient funding was available, leading to the route being split into an 89 km new section north of Ingolstadt and upgrading over the 82 km from there to München. This is still the plan today, and despite geological problems that have affected the works, the planned opening date of 2006 is no longer in question.

Leaving Nürnberg, the new alignment follows the existing line to Regensburg, meaning that München-bound trains will depart from the main station in the opposite direction to today's services. Between Fischbach and Feucht the new line swings southwards on a flyover to join the A9 motorway, which it follows until shortly before Ingolstadt. The alignment only leaves the road for a short distance in the Fränkische Alb where the line runs in tunnel.

By keeping the new line close to the motorway, disturbance to the environment is kept to a minimum. Despite this, a protective wall is to be built beside the line, not just to stop motorists from being distracted by trains passing at 300 km/h, but also to act as a barrier in case of an accident to road or rail vehicles.

Tunnels and viaducts

The route includes nine tunnels with a total length of 27 km (Fig I). Most will be bored, but cut-and-cover construction is being used for the Offenbau, Denkendorf and Audi tunnels.

There are 58 road and rail bridges, and only two remain to be completed at the time of writing. The most imposing structures are the 169m viaduct over the Main-Danube canal at Hilpoltstein and an extra single track crossing of the River Danube between Ingolstadt Nord and Ingolstadt Hbf. Both tracks on the existing bridge will be realigned to form part of the Nürnberg route, and the new bridge will carry trains to and from Treuchtlingen. The longest viaduct at 305m Grossh?€?bing carries a road over the new line, the motorway and the Schwarzach river.

There are no new stations for high speed services on the new line, but the overtaking loops at Allersberg and Kinding im Altmülhtal will have platforms for regional express trains; park-and-ride facilities will also be provided. This work is being funded by the Land of Bavaria, which plans to run 200 km/h regional services over the route. Tenders for operation of these services are to be called at the end of 2003, but so far it is not clear what rolling stock will be used.

Swiss cheese

The tunnelling teams have encountered serious problems. These centred on the difficult geology of the Fränkische Alb, where the limestone rock resembles a Swiss cheese. The karst on the high ground is riddled with holes that severely complicated the tunnelling, leading to a considerable increase in cost. While the surveying teams had identified the presence of the cavities, the hollow areas proved to be far more extensive than predicted. The largest cavity found measured no less than 1000m3. All the cavities had to be filled and then sealed with sprayed concrete, and in three of the nine tunnels the inner concrete shells had to be reinforced.

Further surprises awaited the tunnellers in the 1300m long Offenbau tunnel. This had to be built purely to appease local residents who were concerned about noise. Originally a deep trough was to be cut and then covered over, but after work began in summer 2000 the concrete floor plates unexpectedly worked loose. The problem was quickly identified as water pressure from below, coming from water-bearing strata that had previously been sealed within the rock.

Nearly three years elapsed while the tunnel was redesigned so that work could restart, and construction is once again in hand using pressurised techniques. As it is not possible to use internal combustion engines, all excavated material is being removed with the help of a narrow gauge electric railway. Electrically-powered excavators are expected to complete the tunnelling task by the end of 2004.

The original plans called for ballasted track to be used, but a late design change led to a decision to install 75 km of slab track, using all three structures currently approved by DB(Table I).

The line will be controlled by two computer-based interlockings. One will be located at Ingolstadt Nord, and a second at Nürnberg-Fischbach with processors at Allersberg, Lohen and Kinding will control the northern part of the route.

Costs rise

The line occupies a total of 426ha, of which 166ha was designated environmentally sensitive and had to be compensated by an equivalent area of 'greened' land elsewhere. This was a small factor in the total cost of the project, currently estimated at €3·6bn. The original price tag was DM3·87bn or €2bn, but the unexpected geological problems led to a rapid escalation in cost. The decision to use slab track and tougher safety regulations for fire and disaster prevention also added to the cost. Another factor was a late decision to install GSM-R.

At the south end of the upgraded route, tracks had to be relocated to accommodate München S-Bahn services between Petershausen and Obermenzing. A maximum speed of 160 km/h will be possible between Ingolstadt and Rohrbach, 190 km/h from there to Petershausen, and 200 km/h on to Obermenzing. Considerable realignment has been necessary to ease curves for the higher speeds.

Noise protection measures were needed on both the new alignment north of Ingolstadt and on the upgraded section, as any change to railway installations triggers tougher noise legislation.

Underground passages had to be built at all stations for platform access, and 16 level crossings have been replaced by bridges. Signalling and communications equipment has been renewed throughout, with a computer-based interlocking at Petershausen, the northern terminus of S-Bahn services; this has subsidiary processors located at Rohrbach, Pfaffenhofen and R?€?hrmoos.


  • CAPTION: Reconstruction of the existing Ingolstadt - München line is well advanced at Unterweil-bach between Dachau and R?€?hrmoos
  • CAPTION: The 305 m long bridge at Grossh?€?bing (centre) will carry a local road over the new line and A9 motorway (right)
  • CAPTION: Nürnberg S-Bahn services will pass under the new line as it diverges from the Regensburg route (left) at Fischbach
  • CAPTION: The 169 m span over the Main-Danube canal at Hilpoltstein parallels the existing A9 motorway crossing
  • CAPTION: The new Danube bridge north of Ingolstadt will carry trains to and from Treuchtlingen
  • CAPTION: The Hochtief construction mascot stands outside the 650 m Schellenberg tunnel, close to the site of the planned regional express station at Kinding im Altmühltal
  • CAPTION: Lining work in progress in the 2 288 m bored tunnel at G?€?ggelsbuch
  • CAPTION: Fig I. DB's Nürnberg - Ingolstadt Neubaustrecke includes nine tunnels with a total length of almost 27 km

Table I. Slab track sections on DB's Nürnberg - Ingolstadt new line

Section Type Supplier Length Timescale km

Fischbach - Feucht Rheda 2000 Pfleiderer 2·1 Sep 02 - Jun 03

NBS Nord B?€?gl Max B?€?gl 35·0 Jul 03 - mid 05

NBS Mitte Rheda 2000 Pfleiderer 18·4 } Spring 04 -

NBS Süd Rheda 2000 Pfleiderer 17·6 } Summer 05

Audi tunnel Rheda classic Dywidag 2·0 finished April 02