Aerial picture of the Rastatt tunnel on 17-8-17. Photo credit: Benedikt Spether

Severe impairments on the Rhine-Alpine route: ‘This is the most efficient solution’

Aerial picture of the Rastatt tunnel on 17-8-17. Photo credit: Benedikt Spether

The construction works planned along the Rhine-Alpine transport corridor will result in several impairments but not a full route closure for the coming three weeks, said a DB spokesperson. However, rail freight capacity will be considerably restricted, especially on weekends and public holidays. “We are bundling our construction projects even more efficiently than before”, said DB explaining why disruptions are a necessary evil. 

Why did DB Netze decide to launch such a large-scale construction during this period, and how did it prepare for that? A Deutsche Bahn spokesperson explained to how the German infrastructure manager planned the ongoing and upcoming construction works and how they will impact international rail freight traffic along the Rhine-Alpine corridor.

What will be closed during construction?

The Rheintalbahn will not be closed continuously from 8 to 22 April. However, there will be several operational impairments during this period, explained the DB spokesperson.

When will the closures be full, and when partial?

There will be total closures on weekends and public holidays and single-track operations on weekdays. For instance, on the ‘Right Rheinstrecke’ between Cologne and Koblenz, where construction works started on Friday, 8 April, the capacity will be restricted to a single train path, or there will be no available train paths based on the day up until 15 April.

Moreover, the same will apply to various sections of the route between Basel and Rastatt, where construction works will begin this Friday, 15 April. According to DB Netze, regular traffic will need to be thinned out, and there is likely no train path available for short-term traffic.

“The timetable concept for the next three weeks has been worked out in detail over a period of months together with the relevant railroad companies. The timetables of over 6,000 trains were adjusted and optimised to take account of the restrictions, commented the DB spokesperson.

Why are the closures necessary?

The high density of planned construction works on the Rhine-Alpine corridor does not provide space for “good-timing”, said DB. The closures are necessary due to the urgency to complete essential works in a short time. “For example, on the Easter weekend, we will be carrying out an important construction step on the Rastatt tunnel, which will bring us closer to opening the tunnel and thus increase rail traffic capacity”, said a DB spokesperson.

Phillip Hanze from the Rhine-Alpine corridor had previously commented that “this could not have been done at a better time, as there will be construction works between Germany and Belgium next month. Many construction works will take place on the German network in the next two years, and this just needs to be done.”

“The general rule is: to ensure a high-quality offer for our customers in passenger and freight transport, despite the high construction volume, we are bundling our construction projects even more efficiently than before. We have arranged a maximum of construction work for this period”, emphasised the DB spokesperson.

How did you prepare the sector for the closures?

“We are confident that we have joined forces to make the restrictions bearable. At the same time, we can assure you that a dedicated team coordinates the construction sites to keep rail services as busy as possible during the construction phases. We plan our construction sites up to five years in advance. In doing so, we involve all rail transport companies at an early stage. At central construction and information dialogues, the rail transport companies can provide information that we then consider when planning the construction site. Nevertheless, we cannot always avoid restrictions. We will incorporate the correspondingly modified timetables into the information and booking systems in time”, concluded the DB spokesperson.

At least for the near future, the German and French infrastructure managers will examine the possibility to increase the availability of the alternative route through France. “In 2024, there will be a long-time closure of the railway line in Rastatt, which will have a big impact. There are working groups discussing the diversion routes, which should result in an improved route through France”, said Hanze from the Rhine-Alpine corridor.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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