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Pursuing the wrong projects

22 Dec 2008

Letter to the Editor

Missing links, missing money (RG 9.08 p601)

Sir - I read the article about German infrastructure developments with great interest, but I feel the author should have added ‘pursuing the wrong projects’ to the headline in order to reflect the current situation.

It is not really accurate to say that in the past separation was mainly achieved by running passenger trains during the day and freight at night. This only applies on the Hannover - Würzburg and Mannheim - Stuttgart lines inaugurated in 1991, and since that time, the issue of planning mixed traffic on new lines has not really been addressed properly by railway managers or politicians.

On some routes refuge loops are provided at regular intervals for passenger trains to overtake freight, but there now seems to be a realisation that this does not work when the speed differential becomes too great. UIC recommends that new lines should be optimised either for high speed passenger trains (250 km/h or more) or for mixed freight and regional passenger services (120 to 160 km/h). But this realisation does not seem to have reached the minds of the planners at DB Netz.

At the UIC Hispeed congress in March 2008, DB Netz gave a presentation about ‘mixed traffic on high speed lines’, showing a proposed train graph for the Leipzig - Erfurt route. In a 1 h slot there were three ICEs running at 250 km/h — two close together and the other spaced 30 min later. With only two overtaking loops planned on a 94 km route, this left only two paths for 100 km/h freight trains per hour in each direction. And the line is apparently being built to this specification.

During my career at DB I was closely involved with reunification projects 8.1 and 8.2 covering Leipzig - Erfurt - Nürnberg, and to date there has never been a proper assessment of the traffic to justify the investment.

The new ‘Y-route’ linking Hannover with Bremen and Hamburg is also being designed for mixed traffic, with freight loops every 25 km, but this will result in the same poor capacity utilisation as on the Leipzig - Erfurt line. The requirement to accommodate port-hinterland traffic really calls for a dedicated low-speed freight line in the Hamburg - Hannover corridor.

Similarly, the Leipzig - Erfurt - Ebensfeld route is wrongly-oriented to support port-hinterland traffic, which is better served by the nearby Leipzig - Hof - Regensburg - München corridor. The maximum gradient on this route is only 1·2%, compared with 2% on the new line. There is spare capacity on the route via Hof, but the 250 km between Reichenbach and Regensburg needs to be electrified.

And whilst the Stuttgart - Ulm high speed line (designed for 250 km/h) is a priority for the local politicians in Baden-Württemberg, it will not really help with port-hinterland traffic, as switching ICEs from the existing line will not free up sufficient space for more freight trains on the existing route. So the project doesn’t provide any efficiency gains for freight traffic as a whole.

Sven Andersen
Düsseldorf
Germany