The largest rail construction site in Germany
Upgraded and new lines between Nuremberg and Berlin
Goal for 2017:
Berlin to Munich in four hours
High-speed trains can soon travel on the new line – at up to 300 km/h. Passengers can travel between Berlin and Munich in record times, from city to city. Trains will become a real alternative to travelling by car or plane.
By 2017, most of the work on the longest construction site in Germany, German Unity Transport Project 8 (VDE 8), will be completed. The double-track upgraded and new lines Nuremberg–Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle–Berlin will start operating. The ten-billion euro project was approved by the German Federal Government in 1991 to improve the transport connection between East and West and between North and South. It will also close the gaps in the German high-speed rail network. Freight trains will also travel on the route. The line will open many opportunities for implementing state-of-the-art transport concepts – the beginning of a new era of rail travel.
The upgraded and new line Nuremberg–Erfurt (VDE 8.1) through the Thuringian Forest shortens the journey time between southern and eastern major cities significantly – by up to 1 hour and 40 minutes. The new line Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle (VDE 8.2) enables fast journeys between East and West. For example, it cuts about half an hour off the journey time between Dresden and Frankfurt. When service started on the upgraded line (VDE 8.3) in 2006, the journey time between Leipzig/Halle and Berlin was already halved to approximately one hour.
Connecting the region to the fast network
The new line enables faster journey times and excellent connections between cities. And much more. The Erfurt, Halle and Leipzig junctions are the central interchange stations to the region.
Example scenario for Erfurt: The express trains arrive hourly in a time frame of approximately 10 minutes. Passengers can change trains between the fast lines – for example, leave the Dresden–Frankfurt express train and board the Berlin–Munich train. Or they can continue travelling to the region. For only a few minutes after the express trains have departed, trains to the surrounding region start their journey. The best possible options to change between fast and regional trains bring a new quality to travelling.
The junctions are being completely modernised. Outdated track systems in Erfurt, Halle and Leipzig, some of which have been operating since the beginning of the 20th century, are being upgraded: this will ensure that trains reach stations quickly, take away any journey time saved and pass this on to the regional transport. Around a billion euros is being invested in railway stations, platforms, tracks and technology at the three junctions: to establish the most modern railway infrastructure that has ever existed and achieve new mobility in long-distance and regional transport.
One route if possible; separate routes if necessary:
Freight and passenger trains on one route – with purposeful branches
High-speed trains and slower freight trains on the same line? A good idea? Passenger trains have different railway line requirements than freight trains. For fast trains, speed should be reduced at as few curves as possible. In contrast, if large loads are being transported, the gradient should be as low as possible. This has been taken into account in the new line constructed. And what if a slow freight train is in the way of a fast express train?
Then it overtakes the freight train. There is an overtaking station every 20 kilometres. A train can drive on to the holding track there and let the faster train pass. If space is tight, e.g. around Nuremberg, or necessary, e.g. around Leipzig, freight traffic branches off. From the Gröbers junction, transports roll directly into the container terminal in Leipzig, the freight traffic centre or the air freight transfer station.
A railway with no boundaries:
Closing gaps in the European highspeed rail network
The new high-speed route also has a European dimension: the line between Nuremberg and Berlin is an important section of the high-speed trans-European network (TEN). Project 1 runs from Sicily to Scandinavia – from Palermo via Berlin to Stockholm. Now that the Nuremberg–Berlin gap is closed, it will in future be possible to travel beyond national borders from southern to northern Europe without switching locomotives, making a stop or changing the train control system.
Non-stop journeys and safety are the most important premises for the European rail services of tomorrow. Interoperability is the technical term. It starts with the height of the platform edges and ends with the train control system. On the Nuremberg–Berlin line, all of the required European standards have been realised – right through to disabled access to platforms. This is a significant step towards “a railway with no boundaries”.
New routes for freight traffic
Freight traffic is to be reduced around the Nuremberg bottleneck. A 13-kilometre train path for freight trains is being built – the core part is a tunnel under Nuremberg and Fürth that is about 7 kilometres long. This is the right move and important for two reasons: one of Germany’s largest freight stations is in the Franconian metropolis. Furthermore, the path now used between Nuremberg and Fürth is one of the busiest in Germany. The train path for freight trains will eliminate a real bottleneck.
A role that also the entire north-south axis is to exercise. It can accommodate freight traffic from very busy corridors in the West. The order of the day: German Ministry of Transport predicts that in 2025 approximately 60 percent more goods than today will be transported by rail.
New tracks for freight, high-speed and S-Bahn trains:
Upgraded line Nuremberg–Ebensfeld VDE 8.1 (German Unification Traffic Project)
The entire length of the line is being upgraded to four tracks, for speeds of up to 230 km/h. An S-Bahn connection, including new stations and a train path for freight trains, is being built between Nuremberg and Forchheim, through to Bamberg.
This poses a great challenge for the engineers:
Construction on this line is taking place predominantly “under rolling wheels”, which means rail traffic is still operating during construction.
Through the Thuringian Forest:
New line Ebensfeld–Erfurt VDE 8.1 (German Unification Traffic Project)
The new line will establish the first ever direct connection between Nuremberg and Erfurt – double-tracked and electrified. Journey time: approximately one hour. The line is routed mainly on bridges or in tunnels – 63 of 107 kilometres. 22 tunnels – 41 kilometres long in total – and 29 bridges – 12 kilometres long in total – peel away from the line through the Thuringian Forest and through Upper Franconia.
The route, which allows speeds up to 300 km/h, ascends from the Maintal and reaches its peak of 603 metres at Goldisthal, close to the Rennsteig. It then descends towards Ilmtal and reaches the Erfurt junction. Service on the new line will start in 2017.
Sprint route in Central Germany:
New line Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle VDE 8.2 (German Unification Traffic Project)
Half an hour from Erfurt to Leipzig or Halle – this will be possible in 2015. The new double-track line, 123 kilometres long and designed for speeds of 300 km/h, initially runs through the Thuringian Basin. It then cross through the Finne mountain range in three tunnels with a length of 15.4 kilometres in total. Behind the Querfurt Plate, the route splits towards Halle and Leipzig. The branch towards Halle lies uniquely on the Elster-Saale Viaduct. When service starts on this structure, it will be the longest railway bridge in Germany, with a length of 8.6 kilometres. Five additional bridges, all constructed according to state-of-the-art engineering standards, complete the route.
Comfort route well connected:
Upgraded line Leipzig/Halle-Berlin VDE 8.3 (German Unification Traffic Project)
High-speed trains in a fixed tact: That is the recipe for success for the route section that has been in service since 2006. The connection, designed for speeds of up to 200 km/h, has made rail competitive compared with road travel. Journey times between Berlin and Halle/ Leipzig have been reduced to approximately one hour.
51 level crossings have been replaced with railway or road bridges. This improves the flow of traffic and increases safety for rail passengers and other road users. With the connection to the other upgraded and new lines, the established route can realise its full potential.
Setting new standards:
Innovation along the entire route
New bridge constructions, a modern safety concept in the tunnels, a train control system without signals on the line, upgraded platforms with disabled access, noise protection measures for residents and compensation for encroachments in nature:
new benchmarks have been set during the overall project.
Bedded in the landscape:
Bridges as if built from one piece
The German Bridge Engineering Prize 2012 and 2014 was awarded to structures on the new Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle line: the Scherkondetal and Gänsebachtal Railway Bridges. The aesthetically convincing design of both bridges was praised, which was made possible by their integral construction. The road surface of a railway bridge, the superstructure, was previously joined to the pillars by means of moving bearings.
Now, the engineers have abstained from using the high-maintenance and wear-susceptible bearings and joints – for the first time in railway bridge engineering in Germany. The bridges seem to be made of one piece. They appear slimmer, fit better into the landscape, requires less maintenance in the long term and are therefore less expensive to maintain than conventional bridges. A total of six integral and semi-integral bridges have been built.
Safety and noise protection:
Safety and noise protection: Sophisticated tunnel construction
One tube for one direction of travel: the design principle for the tunnels on the new line between Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle. Every 500 metres is is an escape corridor, a cross-connection. In emergencies, rescue vehicles can drive directly into the tunnel tubes. This is the most advanced safety concept in German tunnel construction. For the tunnels in the Thuringian Forest, which were built based on proven construction methods with a double-track tube, safety is particularly important. They have emergency exits that can be reached through rescue shafts and rescue tunnels. Fire-resistant and smoke-shielding airlocks separate the tunnel from the rescue routes. Rescue areas that support helicopter landing are located at the exits.
Since the tubes allow speeds of 300 km/h, the engineers had a special idea for the five tunnel portals and installed the most modern noise protection. If trains travel through the tunnel at high speed, the air masses are pulled behind it, accumulating more and more before discharging at the tunnel exit with a bang. The socalled hood structures at the portals allow the pressure waves to swirl around and propagate without a bang.
Slab for slab for a ballast-less track
The tracks on the new lines are placed on concrete slabs – no longer on ballast. This is called a slab track system and has many advantages. The tracks can be laid on the slabs to the exact millimetre. The slab track system is low maintenance and offers excellent travelling comfort over decades, which is a key quality characteristic for high-speed traffic.
How do the individual slabs now form a railway line? The answer is simple: the track support plates are laid one after another like domino pieces – even on bridges and in tunnels. Tracks construction can advance much faster in this way than with the conventional ballast method. Each of the slabs weighs about five tonnes and is manufactured precisely to specifications at a concrete factory in Thuringia – 160,000 pieces in total.
Goodbye to track-side signals:
High-tech control systems of the future
The latest technical standards: signals will no longer be used on the new line. With the European Train Control System, ETCS in short, and the GSM-R radio system, trains can be routed safely without trackside signals. The important data is transmitted by radio between train, control centre and transponders track-embedded transponders. The new train control system is mandatory for all new lines in Europe. ETCS is to fully replace around 20 security systems that are still valid, which are currently still preventing
cross-border intra-European traffic.
The upgraded and new line will be fully controlled by electronic signal boxes (ESTW). A total of 17 ESTW control substations (twelve on the line, five at the Erfurt, Leipzig and Halle railway hubs) are connected directly to the control centres in Leipzig and Munich, from where the Traffic controllers lay down the routes using computers.
More railway, less noise:
As much noise protection as needed
What level of noise is caused by rail Traffic? Specialists have calculated the exact amount for every residence on the upgraded line between Hallstadt and Ebensfeld. Extending the railway line always requires noise protection measures. Active noise protection measures such as walls and barriers reduce noise pollution for residents. If statutory thresholds are still exceeded, passive noise protection measures are used. In this case, soundproof windows are installed. Ten kilometres of noise protection walls and barriers will be installed along the 22-kilometre section of line. The effects of sound and vibrations have also be an-
alysed along the entire line between Hallstadt and Ebensfeld. The basis is legal provisions that apply to railway facilities – particularly the Federal Pollution Control Act (BImSchG) and the resulting Traffic Noise Ordinance. The new lines will also have the latest noise protection, of course. The Unstruttal bridge in Karsdorf is one example: a noise-protection wall that spans the entire length of the bridge protects the residents of the community.
Archaeologists working around the clock:
Sensational discovery along the line
Even 1,500 years before Christ, there were trade routes in the area between Halle and Erfurt. Before railway construction began on the Querfurt Plate, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a route from the Bronze Age and finds from 7,500 years of human history. The most valuable of the approximately 400,000 finds are now on show at the Halle State Museum of Prehistory. At the northern exit of the Eierberge Tunnel, south of Coburg, a team of archaeologists discovered the remnants of a settlement from the Linear Pottery
era. About 7,000 years ago, this was the time in which people settled down. The discovery of the settlement and almost 20,000 items was an astonishing scientific discovery – the archaeologists had presumed only a few houses had been in this area.
Fossil finds from the Jurassic period (around 150– 200 million years ago) that came to light in the Eierberge Tunnel were subjected to scientific testing.
New tracks on old routes:
Trade routes, railways lines and European milestones
The route on which the new railway route is now being constructed was previously part of major trade and Traffic routes. The Via Imperii ran from the Italian and southern German markets in a south-north direction through to the trading markets of the Hanse at the Baltic and North Sea. It linked cities such as Nuremberg, Leipzig and Berlin (Cölln). The Via Regia enabled the exchange of goods from West to East and ran across Erfurt and Leipzig, where it crossed the Via Imperrii.
In the past two centuries, the German railway network emerged on the basis of the old trade routes. The expansion of the infrastructure and thus the associated industrial revolution, in turn, contributed to the economic upturn in the interlinked cities and regions in Franconia, Thuringia, Prussia and Saxony. The Nuremberg–
Fürth rail connection was the cradle of the German railway in 1835. Germany’s first long-distance stretch of railway opened in 1839 between Dresden and Leipzig. Operations on the Erfurt–Halle line started in 1847. A direct connection between Erfurt and Würzburg was established in 1884 through the Thuringian Forest with the steep section via Suhl. One year later, the Franconian railway opened between Probstzella and Lichtenfels. Until service starts on the new line, the Intercity Traffic will still continue to wind its way through the Thuringian Forest on this line, at less than 50 km/h on some sections.
The fast connection between Nuremberg and Berlin on the new track will therefore open great opportunities for the future – for people and markets in the context of European integration.
Return of white-tailed eagle and beaver:
Railway and nature in harmony
Build as carefully as possible – many interventions in nature have already been avoided through selection of the best possible routes. Even during construction work itself: The Saale-Elster Bridge was partly built based on the advancing-head construction method. The piers were set in the ground from suspended scaffolding. Construction was suspended for several months every year, to prevent disturbance to rare birds nesting in the floodplain. These are measures that reduce interference with the ecosystem.
Although interference in nature and landscape is unavoidable when railway lines are built, this interference can be mitigated or off set. If it is not possible to compensate for loss of animal and plant habitats on site, alternative equivalents are provided at a different location: many waters have been re-naturalised, thousands of new trees and bushes have been planted, sheep cultivate orchid meadows in Unstruttal, wild horses graze valuable rough grazing land near Erlangen, to preserve biodiversity.
Residents and visitors
Preliminary planning, determination of alternatives, planning permission, construction: In every phase of the project, Bahn representatives talk to the people along the line. At town meetings, details of each construction section are presented and discussed openly. This will continue until completion of the upgraded and new lines. At information points directly on the line, you will also find: graphics, films, information boards, multimedia pres-
entations, rock samples, models and archaeological finds. On the Internet, we also provide complex information on every part of the entire project Nuremberg– Berlin (VDE 8), including animations, videos and downloads. There are also live web-cams or animated graphics at several construction sites to provide information on the progress of all phases of construction:
(Photos: DB AG)