The equipment at the Erfurt rail junction
The rail safety systems, which include signalling and interlocking systems, play a very important, indeed critical, role in the construction activities at the Erfurt junction. Rail safety systems are put in place to ensure that passengers and freight are transported safely through Deutsche Bahn's rail network.
Measures taken to put in place rail safety systems are a common theme running through all stages of construction work on the Erfurt junction. They began with the commissioning of the electronic signal box in 1999 and will be completed at the end of 2017 when the new, two-track VDE 8.1 line from Ebensfeld to Erfurt goes into service. This will come in at the western end of the station parallel to the existing three-track section of line between Erfurt and Bischleben. The measures to put in place safety systems are advance measures. They provide the technical prerequisites for the actual construction measures.
Before the electronic signal box came into service, there were 16 different signal boxes at the Erfurt junction using a variety of interlocking methods (mechanical, electromechanical and relay interlocking). Some of these signal boxes had already been demolished. Erfurt station is a major junction, and that is why so many signal boxes were required to handle rail operations.
A complex station modernisation and construction programme in order to integrate the two new sections of line, VDE 8.1 and 8.2 (Leipzig/Halle-Erfurt), and allow them to pass through would have been very work-intensive, costly and uneconomical if so many signal boxes with different interlocking technologies had been retained. For this reason, Deutsche Bahn decided to build an electronic signal box from which the entire area affected could be controlled and from which safety could be ensured at each stage of construction.
When the electronic signal box went into operation, only 5 of the original 16 signal boxes using the old technology remained. However, these were no longer involved in providing safe running routes for passenger and freight trains.
Up until 2003, the electronic signal box was a central signal box operated on site. In that year, however, control of the points and signals was transferred from the on-site signallers (of whom there were three due to the size of the station) to the operations control centre in Leipzig. The Erfurt junction has been controlled remotely from there since that time. This also laid the foundations for the future remote control of the two new lines that pass through the Erfurt junction.