Tunnel collapse closes key European international route for weeks

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A Deutsche Bahn ICE high-speed train heading north through Rastatt on Sept. 5, 2016.
Keith Fender
Rastatt, Germany
Google Maps
FRANKFURT, Germany — Following the collapse of a new high speed rail tunnel being built underneath the German town of Rastatt, about 100 miles south of Frankfurt am Main, the existing main line railway directly above the damaged tunnel workings has been badly damaged with significant sinkholes under the two tracks and has been closed to all rail traffic since Aug. 12.

This doubletrack section of the busy Karlsruhe, Germany, to Basel, Switzerland, main line between Rastatt and Baden Baden was already one of the biggest bottlenecks in the entire European international rail passenger and freight network — which is exactly why a brand new passenger high speed line is being built parallel to it. The tunnel under construction is part of this new route.

The existing two-track line through Rastatt is used by to 200 freight trains a day plus more than 100 regional and international passenger services.

German national rail network owner Deutsche Bahn has been working with the tunnel contractors to establish how quickly the tunnel construction site can be stabilized, and initial work to pump around 2,600 cubic yards of concrete into the space under the existing railway has been ongoing for the last few days.

DB and its contractors hope to then make repairs at ground level to the existing railway enabling some services to resume on the route albeit at slower speeds than before to start with. Currently DB says it expects some services to be able to use the route from Oct. 7 although it is very possible this date will slip back. Some local residents have been required to leave their homes near the tunnel construction site until the ground is stabilized as there may be a risk to their properties

The blockage of the line which is the key route for freight from Europe's major ports in Hamburg and Rotterdam to Italy and Switzerland has already had major impacts with some shortages reported of both food and pharmaceuticals supplied from one country to another by rail on a just-in-time basis. DB has been diverting rail freight traffic via alternate routes in Germany and via neighboring countries such as France and Austria.

DB is also using road transport or ships on the nearby Rhine River as an option for certain consignments. The Swiss Governments' Federal Transport Office has said the closure is affecting more than 140 freight and passenger trains a day between Switzerland and Germany. For passengers, an intensive replacement bus service between Rastatt and Baden Baden has replaced trains. International TGV and ICE services between France (Paris/Marseilles) and Germany (Frankfurt/Munich) normally routed via Karlsruhe and Strasbourg have been diverted via Mannheim and Saarbrücken.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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