Köln Hbf in Germany

Cologne railway junction will go digital

Deutsche Bahn (DB) will digitise one of the largest and busiest railway hubs in Germany. DB is now starting a feasibility study for the project, which the federal government is funding with 800,000 euros. Results should be available by the end of 2022. The initiators of the project also include the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Rhineland Local Transport Association.

Digital control and safety technology is intended to ensure that the rails in the Cologne railway junction are significantly more efficient in the future. For example, at least three S-Bahn trains per hour and direction that serve the metropolitan region  should also run over the Hohenzollern Bridge bottleneck, and the trains will also be more reliable and punctual.

“The Digital Rail project in Germany is making further progress. We are opening the first chapter with the feasibility study”, Ronald Pofalla, DB Infrastructure Director on Thursday. “The Cologne railway junction, with its more than half a million daily commuters, is to be equipped with the latest control and safety technology – alongside Stuttgart as one of the first metropolitan regions in Germany. We’re increasing the number of trains and making them more punctual.”

Digital interlocking

The feasibility study deals with the main line of the S-Bahn as well as important feeder lines in the greater Cologne area. The aim is to equip all routes there with the European Train Control System (ETCS), the control is to take place exclusively via digital interlockings. This system check that rail sections are free, determines routes, and provides information on movement requests and train speeds. Through the Digital Rail Germany programme, all of the conventional interlocking systems should be replaced by 2035.

The study also looks at the vehicle equipment required to enable highly automated driving. The study is expected to be completed by the end of next year. A milestone plan for converting infrastructure and vehicles to digital technologies is expected. The feasibility study complements the existing plans from the Digital Rail Germany starter package, such as the ETCS equipment for the high-speed Cologne-Rhine / Main line.

More capacity

“In order for us to achieve our mobility goals, Germany has to become a railroad country again”, said Hendrik Wüst, Transport Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. “To do this, we are also using the opportunities offered by digitisation at the neuralgic rail hub Cologne. In this way we create more capacity, more reliability, higher efficiency and more climate protection.”

Dr. Norbert Reinkober, Managing Director of the Rhineland Local Transport Association (NVR): “Every building block on the way to a high-performance Cologne hub is important. We are therefore very pleased that we are taking a further step towards high-performance and upgraded nodes through digitisation and can thus offer our passengers additional capacities. Now I hope that the urgently needed infrastructure measures will be implemented quickly.”

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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