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Die Neubaustrecke erklärt – Deutsche Bahn stellt die NBS Wendlingen–Ulm vor

Sep 10, 2022

Die Neubaustrecke erklärt – Deutsche Bahn stellt die NBS Wendlingen–Ulm vor

Welcome to a journey on the new

Wendlingen

–Ulm line. We are standing on platform 1 of the Ulm main train station, our exit sign is green, the journey is about to start. Today our vehicle is a very special train, a Siemens Desiro, equipped with ETCS measuring equipment. During this trip, the crew will check the operation and operational quality of the digital signaling technology used on the new line. We have a 60-kilometer journey ahead of us on a modern high-speed line. First of all: We will drive through ten tunnels and will be almost half of the journey underground, but we can also expect beautiful views of the Alb plateau and the Filstal valley.
die neubaustrecke erkl rt deutsche bahn stellt die nbs wendlingen ulm vor
Our journey goes over and under 35 bridges and through the new M

erkl

ingen Schwäbische Alb train station. Departure. We leave the platform behind us. Before entering the new line, we cross the northern end of Ulm Central Station. The Nordkopf is a track platform, as every train traveler knows. The tracks rest on a ballast bed that holds the sleepers in position and dampens vibrations. Next to the tracks there are light signals that tell the driver if he can drive on sections of the track and at what speed. Both must be mentioned here because the new line is also breaking new ground in terms of technology.
die neubaustrecke erkl rt deutsche bahn stellt die nbs wendlingen ulm vor
A canal leads us to a completely new siding towards Stuttgart. The Filstal

bahn

, which has connected Stuttgart and Ulm for 170 years, passes above us. Now we are in the middle of the depression and there is so much going on here that we have to pause for a moment. The real journey of our Desiro team went without interruption, but to get a proper impression of the new line, we must stop time here and there and take our time to look around. Another canal connects to our left, through which regional trains run in the direction of Friedrichshafen. There is a ramp on the right hand side, but no tracks.
die neubaustrecke erkl rt deutsche bahn stellt die nbs wendlingen ulm vor
This is the access road to the rescue, which connects to a rescue area further up and allows rescue vehicles to enter the track area directly. There are two bridges above us, one above the other. The Brenz

bahn

is on the half-timbered bridge and the Ulm tram runs one level higher. The channel and bridges were built in the middle of the track bed during ongoing operations. This logistical feat now allows trains to run on all of these routes without getting in each other's way. We continue and dive under the Michelsberg. This is the Albabstieg Tunnel, which leads 100 meters into the Swabian Alb.
die neubaustrecke erkl rt deutsche bahn stellt die nbs wendlingen ulm vor
It is called Albabstieg because all the names of the tunnels were chosen from the perspective of Stuttgart. If you take the route from Stuttgart, your train rolls through the neighboring subway on the left hand side to Ulm main station. In the future, ICEs will speed up to 250 kilometers per hour in this tunnel. However, on our test drive we will only be driving at an average of 90 kilometers per hour, which gives us more time to explore the route. On the right side we see another light signal. Also, we take a look at what is called DMI, the "Controller Machine Interface".
die neubaustrecke erkl rt deutsche bahn stellt die nbs wendlingen ulm vor
From this we can see that we are currently still driving with PZB, the analog train point control system. This is a system that can monitor and influence the train at selected points along the route, for example when braking. The new line is equipped with the European level 2 digital train control system, to which the train will switch immediately. We pass the last light signal on the route, the DMI shows 1000 Hz interference and soon after switches to digital ETCS. In the DMI we can now see that we are driving with ETCS level two, that a maximum driving speed of 160 kilometers per hour has been approved for this measurement run, the gradient of the current route in per thousand and how far to the end of the tunnel from Albabstieg is waiting for us Looking into the tunnel, it is clear that it is not completely dark, but that we can see what is around us quite well.
die neubaustrecke erkl rt deutsche bahn stellt die nbs wendlingen ulm vor
This is due, on the one hand, to the fact that the driver turned on the high beams for us and, on the other hand, to the fact that the hazard lights are on. Tunnel lighting can be switched on by the driver in the driver's cab or by simple switches in the tunnel. A special feature is the continuously illuminated handrail, which shows passengers the way to the nearest emergency exit in an emergency. This so-called "HiT handrail" - handrail with integrated tunnel lighting - illuminates the escape route and the corresponding marking on the tunnel wall. As in all the long tunnels of the new line, this tube connects to its twin tube every 500 meters.
In an emergency, travelers can flee through such connecting structures to the neighboring tube and free themselves through them again. The connecting structures are equipped with secure fire protection doors as locks, light signals always indicate the shortest route to the next escape exit. For the first time we see light at the end of the tunnel. We have achieved the ascent of 100 meters and now we continue our journey over the Alb plateau. The tracks of the new

Wendlingen

-Ulm line are not laid on ballast, but the sleepers are concreted. This system is called slab track or ballastless superstructure. It has the advantage that it allows very high speeds and is much more robust and requires less maintenance than a ballast bed.
The service life is at least 60 years. Directly in front of the Albabstieg tunnel, the two tracks were very far apart, as they had to accommodate the distance between the tunnel tubes. Now they have come together to form a compact route. The two tracks are now four and a half meters apart center to center. The space in between is paved, after all, the speed here is 250 kilometers per hour. When the trains are here, they have a relative speed of 500 kilometers per hour. This creates strong fluctuations in air pressure that could suck up the loose gravel and spin it.
Like almost all

Deutsche

Bahn

routes, the rails themselves are standard gauge; with a ballast bed, the width between the inside edges of the rail heads is 1,435 millimeters. With plate track it is 1,436 millimeters. All the rails we currently travel on have been brought by train to Ulm Central Station. At first, it was not possible to continue the transport here to the Alb plateau by train. The first rails were loaded onto a truck in Ulm and driven to the Alb through the Albaufstieg Tunnel. Only long rails are installed on the new line, which leave the rolling mill with a length of 120 meters and a weight of 60 kilograms per meter.
So the truck was 140 meters long and weighed 380 tons! After the first track was built, the rails of the second track could be driven to the new line with the freight train. The catenary masts are located to the right and left of the tracks. About 800 pieces are installed here between Ulm and M

erkl

ingen, most of them made of concrete, about 100 made of steel. The booms are attached to the masts. We can better see how the airline works on the neighboring road. We can see an upper cable supported by the boom: this is the suspension cable. A lower wire is attached to it with hangers - this is the contact wire that is in contact with the pantographs of trains.
The term "wire" is somewhat trivial. If you were to hold a piece of the contact wire in your hand, it would appear to be a solid copper bar. If we look at our contact wire, we see that it continually zigzags from side to side. This is intentional so that it will slide evenly across the full width of the train pantograph. If the contact wire were to pass straight through, it would rub against a groove in the pantograph. Overhead lines are exposed to multiple loads: they have to withstand heat, frost, wind and ice. To ensure they remain in a stable and precise position even with temperature fluctuations, the weights hang from the catenary masts at regular intervals, keeping the haulage cable and contact wire evenly tensioned, even when expanding or contract.
In total, more than 120 kilometers of catenary have been installed on the new line. This system is robust enough to power the trains on the new line for the next 50 years. In front of us is the Imberg Tunnel, at 499 meters, one of the shortest tunnels on the line. Unlike the Albabstieg tunnel, both tracks in the Imberg tunnel are located together in a tube with a vault profile. In the tunnel there is the Imbergweg and a piece of forest that connects to a green bridge, which in turn crosses the motorway. The tunnel and green bridge together form a wildlife crossing path that allows wildlife to cross safely.
On the left we see a large seepage basin. It forms part of the water management of the new line. There are several rainwater treatment and purification ponds along the route, and in two places there are even underground cisterns to collect and let rainwater filter. Because the new line passes through water protection areas, it was sealed with plastic film and clay sealant at great cost. The runoff water is collected from the sides by side drainage systems that are visible from all sides. If the tracks are curved, there is also a central drain. It was a fundamental planning decision to group the new section closely with the A8 motorway.
The idea was to cross the landscape only once with traffic routes. If the railway had been routed separately, an additional barrier would have arisen. This grouping implies a series of challenges for the new line. You have to follow the curves of the highway and in some places where the grouping cannot be maintained, the railway crosses the highway in tunnels. Here the two trafficking routes are separated by a wall and dams have been erected along long stretches. These barriers protect the new section of road from possible accidents on the motorway. Rail traffic requires a higher height than road traffic, so the new line is usually two meters lower than the motorway.
The passage height of such bridges is thus guaranteed without much effort when constructing the bridge. In some cases, the existing bridges could be extended over the railway. The advantage of piling up such walls was that excavated material from tunneling and track-building could be used locally. Short transportation routes were ecologically and economically ideal. There is a side road next to the route, the so-called railway accompanying road. This is not public, but is used by the railway for operational and maintenance trips. Agricultural roads, which are usually public, run on the other side of the route. Before we get to M

erkl

ingen, we can briefly talk about why these yellow modules are on the slab track for the entire route.
These are called Eurobalises, they belong to ETCS. These beacons are a kind of electronic track mileage, they are read by the train so that it can determine its exact location at regular intervals. The train transmits position and velocity data to the nearest base station. In this way, the signal boxes and the ETCS center know the status of the vehicle at all times. This is done via the railway's own radio network. We are now entering the M

erkl

ingen tunnel. Unlike our previous tunnels, this one has a rectangular cross section because it was built in an open construction. There is a motorway junction and a country road above the tunnel.
Since the line has to descend to pass under these streets, the M

erkl

ingen tunnel is a low point. The rainwater that accumulates here must be pumped out. A drainage pipe leads to the west portal in an underground cistern. The entrance to the cistern is quite discreet on the embankment. The railwaymen do not speak of curves, but of arches. On this curved track we can see that the two lanes are not level, they both have a cross slope. This ramp is called a "lift", it is built into curves so that the track can better absorb the centrifugal forces of the train towards the outside of the curve.
This allows for faster driving and also increases passenger comfort. The slope of the road and the centrifugal forces balance each other so that the passengers on board do not feel either the curve or the slope. We now head towards the station "M

erkl

ingen - Schwäbische Alb". With this regional stop, the new line displays direct benefits in the region instead of just passing through. It would be a shame to pass by, we stop time again and look around. The station consists of two platforms 210 meters long. Travelers reach the platforms through these two towers, which contain stairs and elevators and are connected by a bridge.
High-speed rail runs between the two platform tracks so that long-distance trains and regional trains do not get in the way. ICE trains can run through the station at 250 kilometers per hour. Leaving the station, we see short ends of the track that veer off to one side and end at intermediate stops. Each deck rail has such a side guard on each side. If a train starts rolling downthe platform unintentionally, the flank protection intercepts it and the train cannot access the new line. For output, this switch must be changed. In front of us we see a traction power line that crosses the new line and ends at a substation.
The railway substations are called substations. This is the M

erkl

ingen substation, where the 110,000 volts from the traction power line are converted to 15,000 volts for our overhead line. Unlike the rest of the electrical network, the overhead line has an alternating current of 15,000 volts at 16.7 Hz. Ahead of us are two tunnels that were not built due to topographical restrictions, but because the existing infrastructure had to be avoided. The Widderstall Tunnel passes under a car park and toilet on the motorway. It is named after the nearby village of Widderstall. Although the tunnel was built by the cut and cover method, it has a basket arch profile and a considerable surcharge of forty feet at the deepest point.
We use this so-called transfer point and switch to the opposite track. Several of these transfer points are installed on the new line. These allow the route to be used more flexibly in both directions. The track change can be driven at a maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour. We pass under the A8 motorway. Since this tunnel was built using the cut and cover method, the freeway had to turn twice during construction. This wall was erected between the tunnel tracks directly under the freeway. It absorbs the additional traffic loads from the freeway above us. We have now reached Hohenstadt and, as the name suggests, this is the highest point on the route, 780 meters above sea level.
Construction site facilities and construction offices are on the right hand side. Once the route has been put into operation, green meadows will be created here again. We look at the road and see a change. Instead of concrete sleepers, the surface just before the start of the tunnel is made of level concrete slabs on top of the sleepers. This continues throughout the tunnel and is built in this way in all long tunnels on the route and on the Filstal bridges. The concrete slabs are called “traffic surface”. In an emergency, road vehicles can enter the tunnel: ambulances, fire brigades and even buses to evacuate passengers.
We are now in the Steinbühl tunnel. After going up to the Alb from Ulm, we go back down in the direction of Stuttgart. A look at the ETCS screen reveals the difference in per thousand. The Steinbühl Tunnel is one of the long tunnels on the new line and consists of two single-track tubes. We see the yellow stripe on the left, all the tubes on the left as seen from Ulm are marked with a yellow stripe, all the tubes on the right with a red stripe. Consequently, we still had a red stripe on our tube in the Albabstieg Tunnel, because we had changed tracks in the meantime.
The Steinbühl Tunnel was created by mining in a conventional way. This means that the tunnel was first excavated and blasted, and in a second step the load-bearing concrete tube was installed. We have already descended a little more than 100 meters of unevenness through the Steinbühl tunnel and we arrived at Filstal, one of the most beautiful stations of the trip. The Filstal Bridge allows us to enjoy a fantastic view over the valley at a height of 85 meters. Next to us we see the structure of the bridge of the neighboring track. At this point we have to stop time again.
We are standing in front of the Bossler Tunnel portal structures, the Filstal Bridge connects these two tunnels directly. That's why there are two bridges, the distance between the tracks is as high as the distance between the tunnel tubes specifies, that's around 30 meters. But what we want to look at at this point are the portals themselves. They are built with very special shapes: inclined bell edges to increase the surface of the portal, air extraction chimneys on the roof and a diameter greater than that of the tunnel itself. This construction method is necessary as high-speed trains build up and propel a pressure wave as they enter tunnels that can reach the speed of sound.
It unloads on the opposite side of the tunnel with a loud bang. These special tunnel portals, also known as micropressure wave structures or sonic boom structures, allow air enough space to escape and prevent the explosion. At 8.8 kilometers, the Bossler Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the project. We already know the most important things about the tunnels: the illuminated handrail, the road surface that can be used by road vehicles, the connecting structures that appear every 500 meters in the twin tubes. What can also be seen here are the many joints in the tunnel wall. It can be clearly seen that it was not cast in situ in connected concrete blocks, but is made up of tens of thousands of individual concrete elements.
Because the Bossler Tunnel was not advanced with the help of excavators, but with a 2,500-ton tunnel boring machine, which excavated and installed the tunnel wall. The tunnel wall consists of a total of around 60,000 concrete parts, so-called segments. The construction logistics of this tunnel were challenging: since there was no second point of attack, all of the overhead was brought into the portal in front of us, and at the same time, all of the construction materials were led from there. At Aichelberg we return to the surface. There are cable ducts on both sides of the track. All the cables necessary for the operation of the track run through them.

Deutsche

Bahn

has established its own fiber optic network for the digital train. In the channels there are several fiber optic lines, which protect each other, through which the electronic interlocks communicate and the antennas for the digital radio of the ETCS are connected. In cooperation with the railway, the mobile phone providers also installed their fiber optic lines in the cable ducts and connected the mobile phone masts that cover the entire route. The Aichelberg tunnel passes under the "rest area in front of the Aichelberg". When you, as an ICE passenger, have a cappuccino at a bar table at 250 kilometers per hour, you certainly think of many things, but not how it is possible to keep a 700-ton train running so smoothly at these speeds.
On the one hand, this is achieved with precise construction work. The substructure, which forms the track base, is designed to be load-bearing, durable and precisely positioned in accordance with all engineering rules. Slab track tracks are aligned with a precision of up to 0.2 millimeters. After installation and welding, they are ground several times along the entire length of the track with a grinding mill, so that the surface of the track head is completely flat. The catenary is precisely aligned and tensioned to make precise contact with the pantograph. And all this has been proven in numerous measurements and driving tests at various speeds.
Up to 275 kilometers per hour, although in normal operation only 250 are driven. Measurement and test runs are carried out at a speed 10 percent higher. Our Desiro also makes measurements on this trip and tests the ETCS functions, including beacons and radio. By the way, the rails do not have to be pre-bent in order to be able to lay them on curves. They can support trains that weigh many hundreds of tons, but when a single rail is lifted by an excavator, it seems surprisingly flexible and flexible. A rail is very flexible to the sides and even upwards. Therefore, it can simply be placed and fixed in an arc.
Another traction line runs past us, which is then connected to the Nabern substation. At the transfer point we get back on track in the direction of Stuttgart. Here we stop again. Not spectacular, but extremely important, this modular building houses one of the four electronic signal boxes of the new line. These are a central component of ETCS, making it possible to operate the route without light signals. The other interlockings are in Dornstadt, M

erkl

ingen and

Wendlingen

. Above the tunnel portal we see a mobile phone mast on which both the antennas of the mobile phone providers and the antennas for internal mobile communications are installed.
We are now in the Albvorland Tunnel. The foothills of the Alb are flat, but the tunnel passes under the municipality of Dettingen unter Teck and the Lindorf district of Kirchheim unter Teck. Since we are again on the right hand side of the route, the tunnel tube is marked in red. This tunnel was created by two tunnel-boring machines, each of which built a tube nearly parallel to each other. Our journey is coming to an end. At this point we say goodbye to ETCS, we see a light signal on the right and we are back at the PZB.
Ahead of us are the lights of the west portal. On the left we continue to the Neckar bridge, which connects the new line with Stuttgart 21. We turn right towards

Wendlingen

. This is the so-called freight train connection, through which trains can access the new line as long as Stuttgart 21 is not yet in operation. This tunnel under the A8 is the shortest on the new line and our last tunnel on this journey. We are currently filming at the

Wendlingen

station. The new

Wendlingen

-Ulm line will come into operation on December 11, 2022. The new route will bring great advantages for travelers in Baden-Württemberg: long-distance travelers on the Frankfurt-Munich route will benefit from a journey time of around 15 minutes less, while local traffic will have an hourly connection Ulm-M

erkl

ingen-

Wendlingen

and in the opposite direction.
This also opens up new perspectives for travelers: Ulm and Stuttgart are getting closer, and with the M

erkl

ingen train station an entire region is opening up by rail.
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