HSL-Zuid: high-speed importance

Posted: 8 April 2008 | | No comments yet

European cities are linked by an increasing amount of high-speed transport routes that satisfy growing demand for mobility. Ecological and economical/political aspects are also of immense importance to the expansion of the European high-speed transport network. The Netherlands’ connection to the high-speed network takes Europe another step closer to a form of safe, reliable and […]

European cities are linked by an increasing amount of high-speed transport routes that satisfy growing demand for mobility. Ecological and economical/political aspects are also of immense importance to the expansion of the European high-speed transport network.

The Netherlands’ connection to the high-speed network takes Europe another step closer to a form of safe, reliable and border-free mobility, satisfying very stringent ecological and economic requirements.

High-speed trains on the HSL-Zuid line travel at speeds of up to 300km/h. Such speeds place great demands on the technology, energy supply and maintenance system. As a partner to Infraspeed BV, some or all of these demands fall under the responsibility of Siemens (Transportation System).

This article provides an overview of how the Public Private Partnership (PPP) project and the underlying technical project design for the HSL-Zuid line were processed on the basis of EN50126.

The European idea

There are plans for all of Europe to be connected by a coherent high-speed railway network by 2020. Journey times within the Trans-European Network (TEN) – from Spain to Russia and from Finland to Greece – have already been reduced several times over. Once trains start to run on the high-speed ‘Hogesnelheidslijn Zuid’ (HSL-Zuid) line, Amsterdam and Paris will be just 186 minutes apart by train. The Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp-Brussels-Paris link will also become an environmentally-friendly alternative to air and car travel once the HSL-Zuid project is completed and passenger trains start running. The region of Randstad in the Netherlands is the most densely populated conurbation in Europe and has the highest transport levels anywhere in Europe. Once the HSL-Zuid line is up and running, this huge volume of transport will ease and levels will fall, contributing greatly to a cut in CO2 emissions and an increase in environmentally-friendly mobility and quality of life.

The Netherlands will also be connected to the European high-speed network through the construction of this line. The double tracked HSL-Zuid line has been designed exclusively for passenger use and is one of the Netherlands’ most important infrastructure projects. The innovative European train protection concept for a high-speed network requires uniform train protection and train control systems. For the first time ever, ETCS level 2 (European Train Control System) has been installed across borders on the HSL-Zuid line.

Standardised interfaces between vehicle and line enable interoperability across borders. The economic benefit needed is guaranteed by using standardised software over long distances. Trains need to simply be equipped with one single system for transport between several countries.

Construction of the HSL-Zuid line has been financed through a PPP model. This is the biggest PPP project to date for the construction of a high-speed line in Europe and is the most extensive PPP contract that the Dutch government has ever been involved in. Including the private sector in the project promises a great gain in efficiency, thrust of innovation and takes the burden off national budgets. The project, tailored to the customer, was awarded the title “European PPP Deal of the Year 2001” by Project Finance magazine.

Border-free mobility solutions

Nowadays, travelling for work or leisure means covering huge distances in as short a time as possible. As conurbations like the Randstad region continue to grow at great speed, a safe and fast public transport system is key to quality of life, employment and competitiveness. The area needed comprehensive, attractive and optimum mobility solutions and this called for a skilled partner with plenty of expertise in this field.

Handling a project on a scale of billions of Euros like HSL-Zuid is extremely complex and challenging. Holland, has to be able to rely on the contractor’s experience in the international railway business, efficient project processes and the project being completed on time.

To this end, the client, the Dutch Ministry of Transport, invited tenders for a concession and awarded Infraspeed B.V. the contract to build and maintain the line for 25 years until 2031. Infraspeed B.V. has concluded separate contracts for construction of the infrastructure and maintaining the line.

On 21 December 2006, the consortium handed the infrastructure over to the customer on time and therefore completed the first part of the project on schedule.

During construction and now that operations are starting on the HSL-Zuid line, as an international company, Siemens is working with its international and local partners and applying its great wealth of experience to lay the groundwork for the Netherlands to achieve the goals and benefits it has set itself.

International trains travel on the HSL-Zuid line at up to 300km/h, decreasing the journey time between Amsterdam and Paris from approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes to just 3 hours. While travelling from Amsterdam to London currently takes around 6 hours and 15 minutes, in the future it will be possible in around 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The Netherlands’ connection to the high-speed network takes Europe another step closer to ‘border-free mobility’ through:

  • An innovative finance concept (using a PPP project)
  • Construction of all electrical and mechanical equipment (including cross-border installation of the ETCS level 2 system)
  • Conducting successful test runs
  • Completion of the project after just a five-year construction phase
  • Handover of the HSL-Zuid line to a satisfied customer
  • Conclusion of a 25-year maintenance contract

The HSL-Zuid project: project highlights

Infrastructure project

The HSL-Zuid line is approximately 100km long and is an important part of the TEN for high-speed rail transport. As a cross-border passenger line, it links the international airport at Schiphol with Rotterdam’s central station and the border between the Netherlands and Belgium.

It passes through one of Europe’s most densely populated conurbations, the Randstad region. More than seven million people (or approximately 40% of the Dutch population) live here. This concentration of people results in huge infrastructure and environmental problems such as transport chaos and high pollution levels. The opening of the HSL-Zuid line should greatly ease the problem of queuing traffic and reduce CO2 emissions. People living in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-The Hague-Utrecht region should enjoy a better quality of life and benefit from environmentally-friendly mobility.

Between 2001 and 2006, the HSL-Zuid line was equipped with overall project leadership from the Infraspeed B.V. consortium. The following industrial investors were partners to this consortium for the construction phase:

  • Siemens Niederlande N.V. , 46% involvement in equipping the line,
  • Koninklijke BAM N.V., 45% involvement in construction of the track and noise barrier
  • Fluor Infrastructure B.V., 9% involvement in project management

And the following banks were involved as institutional investors:

  • Innisfree
  • HSBC Infrastructure

During the construction phase, Siemens was responsible for planning and turnkey construction and handover of all the line equipment, consisting of:

  • Signalling and safety systems
  • Communications equipment
  • Power supply and overhead contact line
  • Safety and installation technology, including the tunnel equipment

During the operating phase, Siemens in collaboration with its partners is responsible for maintenance and some replacement of the infrastructure, including structures, such as buildings, bridges, tunnels and viaducts.

During the contract’s total runtime of 30 years, comprising five years for construction and 25 years for maintenance, Infraspeed B.V. will receive income for its work totalling €2.5 billion to provide the HSL-Zuid infrastructure. This income covers the costs of investment, maintenance, capital and depreciation and shall be paid on the basis of evidence that the levels of availability have been reached. The Netherlands paid the costs of constructing the infrastructure, totalling approximately €4.2 billion. Siemens’ share of the consortium for equipping the line corresponded to roughly €400 million.


The turnkey HSL-Zuid project was implemented by Infraspeed BV, who acted as the concessionaire and banker using private funds only and without public grants. The PPP contract concluded for the finance has been tailored to the individual project circumstances. This is the biggest PPP project to date for the construction of a high-speed line in Europe and is also the most extensive PPP contract that the Dutch government has ever been involved in. The contract between the Dutch government and Infraspeed consortium covers planning, implementation, finance and the 25-year maintenance of the above ground and substructure of the HSL-Zuid line.

Within the construction contract, Siemens was responsible for:

  • System integration,
  • Design, installation and commissioning:
  • Signalling and safety systems (ETCS)
  • All communications equipment
  • The power supply, including overhead contact lines
  • Safety engineering, including tunnel equipment

Project management and system integration

Implementing a turnkey project like the HSL-Zuid lines requires a huge amount of expertise. Short decision-making routes and optimum utilisation of potential synergy within the consortium were key to successful implementation and completion according to plan. Adapting the project to individual circumstances, including smooth collaboration with all Infraspeed partners, meant that Siemens project management and its partners had to comply with complex requirements.

Simply producing, administering and archiving around 100,000 documents for the customer during project implementation required a high level of organisation and coordination. Efficient system integration and optimised project management, project controlling and project implementation with precisely defined areas of expertise saved a lot of valuable time and money.

RAMS management also checks, analyses and assesses decisions relating to design and subsequent operation and maintenance in advance in terms of:

  • Reliability
  • Availability
  • Maintainability
  • Safety

Possible problems, errors, potential improvements, hidden risks and costs or insufficient profitability were evident to both the customer and consortium at the planning stage before the decision to move into the project was taken. ‘Safety first’ applied at all times. This allowed the overall financial risk on the part of the customer and consortium to be greatly reduced to the advantage of both parties.

Flexibility, thinking ahead, reliable scheduling and the professional coordination of interfaces were all part of the service, as they are in all Siemens turnkey projects.

System requirements and their verification and validation

The system requirements result from the contract, the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI), legislation and standards, like EN50126 ‘The specification and demonstration of reliability, availability, maintainability and safety (RAMS)’.

The EN 50126 standard defines a phase model for the life cycle of rail applications, from product to partial and complete system. The constructor consortium was obliged by contract to proceed in accordance with this standard and had to demonstrate compliance at all times with the contractual requirements using verifications and validations. The customer did not provide any planning or building permits, just process checks.

Technical implementation of the HSL-Zuid project

Basic technical data

The following table shows the main basic technical data and information regarding the infrastructure of the HSL-Zuid project:

In addition to the 6km-long viaduct near Bleiswijk and the crossing of the Hollandsch Diep waterway with a 2km-long bridge, four long tunnels were built and equipped along the HSL-Zuid line. The longest tunnel which is just under 8km in length (one of the longest tunnels in the Netherlands) is in the northern, 43km long ‘Randstad’ section of the line and crosses the Groene Hart area, renowned for its agricultural value, which gives the tunnel its name. The ‘Brabant’ section that passes to the south of Rotterdam contains tunnels under the Oude Maas and Dordtsche Kil. The tunnels that are below sea level were huge challenges in terms of design, material and overall safety and installation technology.

Signalling and operations control technology

The HSL-Zuid line has been equipped with one of the world’s most modern forms of control for signalling and safety systems. Using its Trainguard® solution, Siemens built the ETCS Level 2 safety system along the Dutch high-speed line. This is the first time that the ‘European Train Control System’ that complies with the very latest European standards has been used in cross-border circumstances and supersedes various national train protection systems.

Thanks to the sophisticated ETCS systems and components of the Trainguard® solution, the HSL-Zuid line can be operated without the need for expensive multiple-equipment solutions on vehicles or the time-consuming process of changing engines. Siemens is therefore the first company anywhere in the world to prove that ETCS Level 2 can be successfully used in commercial, cross-border operations. For availability reasons, ETCS Level 1 was also installed as a fall back level according to the UNISIG standard as part of the TSI (Technical Specification of Interoperability) should faults arise. Other Simis-W interlocking systems, signals, point mechanisms and wheel-counting devices round out the equipment provided for the HSL-Zuid line’s signalling and operations control technology.

Communications equipment

To achieve optimum reliability in communication between station masters and train drivers on the HSL-Zuid line, Siemens used GSM-R technology as the building block for ETCS Level 2 (‘Radio based train control’). This digital radio system was designed especially for railway applications and standardised at international Level. It is characterised by its flexible and easy-to-maintain properties. Siemens was also responsible for installing the following communications equipment:

  • Transmission system for voice and data traffic
  • Emergency call system in tunnels
  • Emergency radio system (TETRA according to Dutch C2000 standard)
  • OTN backbone (data/voice transfer routes using fiber optic technology)

Distribution and supply of traction current

When installing the overhead contact line system, 2507 pylons, 4038 brackets, 180km of negative feeders and 180km of return conductors were used and the associated grounding and cable laying work carried out. Delivery, installation and commissioning of the traction current supply covered:

  • The construction of seven auto transformer stations (20 MVA) long the line
  • A special design for the shape and look of the overhead contact line pylons that picks up on the design of the tilted (15°) noise barrier in line with contractual design specifications
  • Design and appropriate certification of the system in accordance with the ‘Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI)’

Tunnel equipment

Since trains pass through the tunnels at a maximum speed of 300km/h, special equipment also had to be developed and installed for any emergencies that may arise and had to reliably ensure safety in such situations. Complex safety systems for protecting passengers and the emergency services were commissioned and tested for this purpose in the tunnel parts of the HSL-Zuid line.

Siemens used systems that satisfy the special requirements of the HSL-Zuid line and withstand high levels of load to ensure the reliability of tunnel technology. All safety and installation technology, including the tunnel equipment and its control (SCADA), and the power supply fell under the responsibility of Siemens and covered:

  • Lighting technology (escape routes, tunnel lighting)
  • Fire alarm and fire fighting system
  • Tunnel ventilation
  • Drainage and protection against flooding
  • Elevators and escape doors
  • Heating, ventilation

Maintenance & service

The entire turnkey system was handed over to the operator, tested and ready for use. Within the concluded PPP contract, the customer requested not only delivery but also maintenance and servicing of all technology: Siemens and its consortium partners shall be responsible for maintaining the HSL-Zuid line for 25 years.

Maintenance is organised and status data for the HSL-Zuid line recorded using a Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS). This is part of the Asset Management System (AMS), which ensures overall management of the infrastructure and the substructure up until the planned project handover to the Netherlands. At the same time, CMMS supports the documentation of data and information which form the basis of payment to the consortium of income for work done:

  • To process the payment of income, efficient procedures provided by Siemens where worked on, tested and implemented by Holland
  • ‘RroRail’ operator
  • Infraspeed BV consortium (installation and maintenance)

This is performed jointly under the lead management of the consortium’s RAM management.

Dietmar Wegner

Born in 1960, Mr. Dietmar Wegner started his career at a Technical High School where he gained a professorship in nuclear technology. In 1990, he began working for Siemens as a System Analyst concentrating on projects such as the EU-project ‘TACIS’. By 2001, Dietmar had progressed to System Engineer and then in late 2002 he advanced to the Consortium RAM Manager for HSL Zuid (High-Speed-Line). Since 2007, Dietmar has been the RAMS Senior Expert and RAMS Manager for Siemens working for projects such as the PPP-project and Light-Rail.

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