Creating sustainable quality for railway infrastructures
Posted: 3 April 2006 | | No comments yet
Competition on Germany’s railways is working. In the time that Deutsche Bahn AG has been in existence there have never been as many train operating companies using the network as there are now. Never before have so many train-path kilometres been worked. Germany is a front-runner as regards the opening up of markets in European […]
Competition on Germany’s railways is working. In the time that Deutsche Bahn AG has been in existence there have never been as many train operating companies using the network as there are now. Never before have so many train-path kilometres been worked. Germany is a front-runner as regards the opening up of markets in European rail transport: 320 train operating companies have been licensed and are now running trains over infrastructure managed by DB Netz AG. We have a duty, therefore, to deliver compelling quality and prices for our customers.
DB Netz AG guarantees the safe, reliable and punctual completion of around 35,000 train movements a day in passenger and freight operations. The basis for these operations is provided by a network of lines that is almost 35,000 kilometres long, that contains almost 80,000 switches and crossings, over 800 tunnels, more than 29,000 railway bridges and around 5,400 signalling installations. A total of more than 9,000 employees regularly inspect and service all facilities. Any faults identified are remedied forthwith as part of either corrective repairs or scheduled maintenance.
Our activities are underpinned by the German Railway Act. This states that “railways are obliged to manage their operations safely, to build railway infrastructure, rolling stock and accessories safely, and to keep these in a safe operating condition”. In the context of responsibility for facilities, the operator is also responsible for maintaining the infrastructure.
DB Netz AG earmarks more than one billion euros a year for the purpose of conscientiously exercising this task. The German government invests approx. an additional 2.5 billion euros of the federal budget in the existing network, primarily in respect of renewal measures. Top of the list here is the Permanent Way Programme, followed by the programme for renewing signalling installations.
All renewal programmes are based on the diagnoses and recommendations of the maintenance organisation. This presupposes experience and a readiness to accept responsibility. Continuity and the courage to develop new infrastructure elements, procedures and organisations also play a part.
A special sustainability programme for maintenance services has been running since the beginning of 2005. The measures involved, primarily the mechanical maintenance of track and switch systems inclusive of rail reprofiling, are being carried out to the exact kilometre in large coherent sections on specified lines. Central control makes sure that optimum use is made of resources in the process. These sustainability programmes are supplemented by a vegetation control programme, aimed at preventing the causes before any substantial damage can occur.
Comprehensive renewal works are generally performed under normal service conditions by DB Netz AG. It has also been possible to impose a number of temporary total closures recently. This entails reconciling scheduled services with the required renewal measures for our customers.
The investment measures contained in the Permanent Way Programme are grant-assisted in line with a specified set of rules. The measures mainly relate to track and switch system renewal. Paying due attention to factors such as the constraints of federal budget time limits, financing regulations and the need to bear in mind the lead times required for planning and tendering periods as set forth in contract-award legislation, it has always proved possible so far to complete the prescribed scope of permanent-way programme works on time. Some 1,200 km of track and more than 1,000 switch systems were renewed in the 2004 business year.
The decision as to whether tenders submitted in response to calls for competition are priceworthy or not is easier to make if the services can be assessed on the basis of one’s own work. Accordingly, DB Netz AG will continue in future to be competently represented, either directly or through its subsidiaries in the Bahnbau Group, in all key areas of activity in renewal and maintenance programmes. This allows easy re-costing and assessment of tenders. ‘Make or buy’ is the catchphrase for the future, whilst ‘more engineering works for the same money’ is quickly catching on with other railways too. The Bahnbau Group successfully puts these findings into practice in cooperation with its partners on an international scale.
In the longer term, further progress can only be made on cutting costs and improving quality if new approaches are adopted. In that respect, our employees are our most valuable asset. It is their know-how that serves as a basis for the ongoing development of repair procedures. In addition to intelligent use of the existing resources, the focus is therefore also on developing innovative renewal methods in order to achieve cost-effective track repairs and minimise the impact on railway operations. That is also in the interests of our customers. The target is to optimise the construction process as a whole. That is the only way in which we can achieve our common objective of shifting more traffic onto rail.
DB Netz AG has structured itself accordingly. Its maintenance (local) and repairs (mobile) units have been provided with the necessary authority and capacity. At the same time, all parties in any way involved in the railway have been included too. We are engaged in a close interchange of experience with all associations from the railway suppliers industry. However, we have to retain our responsibility and capacity for appraisal and commissioning in respect of our infrastructure.