GERMAN RAILWAY is set to open the Hannover - Berlin high speed line on September 15. Among the finishing touches required is installation of additional lineside wind barriers following the discovery that ICE2 driving trailers may be at risk of derailment in high winds if they are leading the formation. After the Eschede disaster in June, any safety story with the letters ICE in it was bound to stir up the media, and so it proved.

DB issued a statement on July 22 pointing out that the ICE2 is authorised by the Federal Railway Office to run at 280 km/h. A restriction to 200 km/h applies in high winds if the train is running with the 52 tonne driving trailer leading. To cope with this DB has scheduled ICE2s to run with the 80 tonne power car at the front of the train wherever possible - a tedious restriction that may require time-consuming turning movements between workings.

DB is meanwhile assessing the Hannover - Berlin, Hannover - Würzburg and Mannheim - Stuttgart Neubaustrecken to see where there is a risk of wind-induced derailment - on high viaducts, for example. Wind barriers will be erected where possible so that the 200 km/h restriction can be lifted in due course. At the same time DB and the German weather service are looking at wind prediction systems that would automatically reduce the speed of trains at risk.

The phenomenon is not unknown. Similar problems afflicted Britain’s Advanced Passenger Train in the 1970s, but the risk then was that tilting caused the centre of gravity to move so that the train was possibly vulnerable to being lifted off the track in extreme wind conditions. o