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Building Germany’s largest and most innovative infrastructure project

Posted: 2 April 2013 | Olaf Drescher, Head Project Manager for VDE 8, DB ProjektBau GmbH | No comments yet

The Nuremberg-Berlin Project (VDE 8) is Germany’s largest and most innovative infrastructure project with 56km of tunnel and 27km of viaduct. With the breakthrough in the 824m-long Höhnberg Tunnel in Upper Franconia on 3 August 2012, the last of the 56km of tunnels in this project was completed – a significant milestone in the major new rail link between Munich and Berlin. The core section of the link is a 500km-long new and upgraded line along the Nuremberg–Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle–Berlin route. Investment for the project amounts to €10 billion from the Federal Republic of Germany, the European Union and Deutsche Bahn AG.

The Nuremberg-Berlin Project (VDE 8) is Germany’s largest and most innovative infrastructure project with 56km of tunnel and 27km of viaduct. With the breakthrough in the 824m-long Höhnberg Tunnel in Upper Franconia on 3 August 2012, the last of the 56km of tunnels in this project was completed – a significant milestone in the major new rail link between Munich and Berlin. The core section of the link is a 500km-long new and upgraded line along the Nuremberg–Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle–Berlin route. Investment for the project amounts to €10 billion from the Federal Republic of Germany, the European Union and Deutsche Bahn AG.

The Nuremberg-Berlin Project (VDE 8) is Germany’s largest and most innovative infrastructure project with 56km of tunnel and 27km of viaduct. With the breakthrough in the 824m-long Höhnberg Tunnel in Upper Franconia on 3 August 2012, the last of the 56km of tunnels in this project was completed – a significant milestone in the major new rail link between Munich and Berlin. The core section of the link is a 500km-long new and upgraded line along the Nuremberg–Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle–Berlin route. Investment for the project amounts to €10 billion from the Federal Republic of Germany, the European Union and Deutsche Bahn AG.

VDE 8 was one of the original 17 ‘German Unity’ transport projects – nine of which are aimed at improving rail links between the two parts of the country. In the south, the line connects with 170km of new and upgraded line on the Nuremberg–Ingolstadt–Munich route. The link from Northern Italy to Munich via Austria, over the new and upgraded lines to Berlin, and onward to Scandinavia, is designated Project No.1 in the plans for a trans-European transport network.

Environmentally-friendly alternative to road and air transport

VDE 8 is being realised in line with Deutsche Bahn’s approach of ‘sustainable action’.

The project is being built as a double-track, electrified, high performance route for primarily high-speed passenger trains running at up to 300km/h, but also for freight traffic. The new line to the heart of Germany through the Thuringian Forest should be ready for service in 2017 and the section between Erfurt and Halle/Leipzig earlier, in 2015. The new link offers an environmentallyfriendly alternative to road and air transport and the journey time between Munich and Berlin will be approximately four hours – two hours faster than before. The line is also connected to an airport between Halle and Leipzig. The newlybuilt airport station is integrated at the bottom level of the airport’s central terminal, with escalators and lifts providing shortcuts directly to the check-in area.

Trace stage concluded

The trace for the 230km-long new section between Ebensfeld in Upper Franconia and Halle/Leipzig had more or less been completed by the end of 2012. The trace was created with cuttings and embankments and a multitude of engineering structures. In the 25 tunnels, which have a combined length of 56km, fitting-out work is in the final stages. Almost all of the 25 major viaducts, which have a total combined length of 27km, are already in place across the valleys and the reinforced concrete bridges are complete. The current final stages of bridge building are the three steel structures in the valley of the river Main and near Halle (Saale).

Novel bridge designs

The planners and engineers paid particular attention to blending the trace and its engineering structures as best as possible into the surrounding countryside. Therefore, bridge arches with record spans of 270m over valleys and lakes were decided on. Their innovative integral designs with no bearings or joints result in a very slim appearance with low maintenance overheads. Five bridges are constructed in this way, which are unique on the German rail network. The legal authority for the realisation of these plans called for extensive evidence which was provided in collaboration with colleges, amongst others. These designs were installed for the first time on a German railway line and they have since won first prize in the 2012 German Bridge Building Awards. The three steel bridges were re-engineered with respect to the standard design too. With spans of up to 110m, they are also fit for 300km/h running, as is the entire main line. A special construction method was used for the Saale-Elster viaduct, south of Halle (Saale), in the interests of environmental protection. A massive feed structure made it possible to build using ‘end tipping’. The viaduct supports were constructed from above, without the engineers touching the valley floor. There is also a junction on the viaduct, which is 8.5km-long in total.

Tunnel construction in large dimensions

The construction of over 50km of tunnel took around five years and a number of tunnels were driven simultaneously. This necessitated extraordinary coordination in construction site logistics. Using explosives and excavators as well as boring machines, the bores were driven through many different geological formations. Over 10 million cubic metres of material had to be dug out and removed and over two million cubic metres of concrete were used. The 8.3km-long Bleßberg tunnel is the longest tunnel of the project and is part of the crossing of the crest of the Thuringian Forest – a low German mountain range. The biggest surprise during the driving of the tunnel was the discovery of a huge stalactite cave in Thuringia. It was partially explored, together with the authorities, and secured for the tunnel to pass safely over it. The rescue concepts for emerg – encies are the most up-to-date for tunnel safety. They include, for instance, separate access shafts, cross-passages, helicopter pads and fire extinguishMost tunnels are basically complete and ready for fitting-out. Depending on length and cross-section, some tunnels are extended at the portals with 100m-long hood structures. These hoods prevent the so-called ‘sonic boom’ – a bang generated at the portal by most trains travelling through the tunnel at high-speed.

Equipping the line with the most modern standards

In the current stage of construction, modern technologies are also being used to convert the trace to a railway. Slab track is presently being installed and overhead line equipment erected. Several proven slab track systems are in use. The traditional track type, with a track grid made up of sleepers on a bed of ballast, is laid only in the passing loops, which are located approximately every 20km and which widen the line to four tracks. The ballastless slab track in the systems used consists mainly of pre-cast concrete base sections which are linked to each other. This work commenced in 2012 between Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle over a distance of 100km. On the section south of Erfurt, about 30km have already been laid.

In the next few years, the main focus will continue to be on expansion of the rail hubs at Erfurt, Leipzig and Halle. A completely new hub was created at Erfurt, including the station itself, and the plan here is for a central interchange for long distance ICE lines, providing connections with regional services at half-hourly intervals.

The project includes new traction current supply lines – 83km for the Erfurt-Leipzig/Halle section alone and these will soon be ready. Many kilometres of supply line were optimised in collaboration with the electricity companies – some of them are carried on common pylons.

Certification of project-stages

All construction measures are supported by the EBC (EISENBAHN-CERT – a certification and inspection body for complex railway systemsing systems and components at the Federal Railway Authority (EBA) for TS lines), which is the notified body for interoperability for the EU. Thus for the first time for a new line in Germany, all stages of the project, from the planning stage right through to commissioning, will have to pass the European authorisation process – the TSI procedure. This is to ensure that the line will fulfil the aim of the project – to be ‘Part of the Trans-European High-Speed Network’ – from a technical viewpoint. The technical objective of the project is non-discriminatory access to the line for all approved railway rolling stock in Europe.

The line will therefore also be equipped with ETCS – the new European automatic train control system. On the new sections of line, a version will be used which requires no fixed signals. The radio communications service is provided via GSM Rail.

Environmental consideration

The engineering works for a new line constitute an encroachment into the natural environment. However, Deutsche Bahn’s plans include analysing the environment affected and taking the required comprehensive compensation or replacement measures to ensure that the new line blends into its environment as harmoniously as possible. These measures affect an area of over 3,000 hectares. The project-accompanying landscaping is carried out before the track bed is constructed in order to offer alternatives to the affected biotopes in good time.

Before construction, scheduled archaeo – logical excavations were carried out. The finds, over 1,000 pre-historical burial places amongst other things, formed the basis for new exhibitions at the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle (Saale).

Well-informed public

Construction progress is accompanied by comprehensive information for everyone. In the planning phase, the public was involved to a greater extent than that required by law. In the construction phase, the concept was refined again. Detailed metre-by-metre progress about the project construction can be found on the internet1 and generous information centres offer interactive information opportunities and possibilities for discussions with engineers. The centres can be found along the route at Kalzendorf, Goldisthal, Fürth, Erlangen, Bad Staffelstein and Coburg.

The realisation of the project, right through to handover of the route ready for service to the railway infrastructure managers, rests in the hands of DB ProjektBau GmbH, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn AG. All competences and resources are summarised here under ‘VDE8 Nuremberg-Berlin major project’.

References:

1. www.vde8.de

Biography:

Olaf Drescher has been Head Project Manager for VDE 8 at DB ProjektBau GmbH since 2007. After training as an electronic signal engineer, Olaf graduated as a qualified eng – ineer in the field of railway safety systems at the Dresden School of Engineering for Transport Technology and subsequently as a qualified engineer for information technology at the Dresden University of Transport and Communications. From 1983 to 1993, Olaf was employed in various roles in the Safety Systems Department of German State Railways (Deutsche Reichsbahn). After this, Olaf was Head of Signalling, Telecomms and Electro-technology in the Railway Construction business segment at Deutsche Bahn until 1998. From 2000 onwards, Olaf managed the major project VDE 2 Hamburg–Berlin, and in 2005 moved to the major project VDE 8 Nuremberg–Berlin, for DB ProjektBau GmbH.

 

 

 

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