Fast-track Programme (SLP)
Increased reliability, lower maintenance thanks to modern signalling technology. First rollout as early as 1.5 years after construction begins in 2022. Findings being collected for the rollout of Digitale Schiene Deutschland (Digital Rail Germany: DSD). This is the Fast-Track Programme.
The name says it all. The ‘Fast-Track Programme’ (Schnellläuferprogramm: SLP) – an initiative of the German federal government, the rail industry and Deutsche Bahn (DB) – is an economic stimulus programme designed to combat the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, safeguard jobs and strengthen industry. To this end, the federal government is providing funds of €500 million throughout 2020 and 2021, €100 million of this in 2020. In a short time, in seven projects, existing signal and switch technology will be replaced by modern, digital technology. Projects like these usually take much longer to realise, but processes are being improved and standards established to accelerate project execution, in close cooperation with industry. This is an important building block for the digitalisation of the rail network within the framework of the DSD programme.
The SLP began with the signing of the agreement by all parties on 2 September, 2020. It aims to accelerate the DSD’s goal of equipping the rail network with digital control and safety technology by 2035. Several years earlier than planned, Germany will benefit from a digital and forward-looking rail network. This will make it possible to achieve transport and climate policy goals and strengthen Germany as a business location.
Ambitious goals like these require new approaches – ones that offer high efficiency and short implementation times, as being developed and tested as part of the SLP. Lean processes and new standards form the foundation of the acceleration. As a result, valuable knowledge is being gained for the DSD area rollout. This is a truly unique approach.
"With the SLP, the federal government, the rail industry and DB are essentially pursuing two goals. Firstly, securing jobs in the industry and strengthening employment. The other is to gather valuable knowledge for the accelerated rollout of DSD by 2035."
Frank Gülicher, Head of Digital Planning and Construction of Infrastructure Projects (Deutsche Bahn AG) and Head of Digital Signaling and ETCS Project Portfolio (DB Netz AG)
The SLP projects
To achieve the quick start time and fast pace of the SLP, a total of seven projects were selected, with the parameters of offering comparatively low complexity and minimal impact on ongoing operations and other construction works. The projects are divided into two clusters. The four projects of Cluster 1 are the responsibility of signalling technology manufacturers already established in the German market. The three projects of Cluster 2 are the responsibility of those not yet established in the German market. Through the SLP, these manufacturers will have the opportunity to implement digital signal box technology in accordance with DB specifications and to obtain approval. Through the entry of new signalling companies, market expansion is to be achieved, creating higher capacity and broader know-how for the DSD area rollout.
Technically, the projects involve a ‘1:1 replacement’ of existing signal box and level crossing protection technology with new, modern elements that will be upwardly compatible with future DSD targets. The following defined, standardised interfaces will be implemented independently of the manufacturer: SCI-LX (signal box-level crossing), SCI-ILS (signal box-signal box), SCI-CC (signal box-control system) and SCI-RBC (signal box-Radio Block Centre). With the help of this technology, the reliability of the rail network is to be increased and maintenance effort reduced. In this way, the rail network will be made more robust. The manufacturer-independent interfaces also enable a sustainable reduction in the number of different technologies. In individual projects, greater flexibility is also achieved through Ks signalling systems or integrated train control, for example. In some cases, track-change operations are being retrofitted – with the advantage of time gains at construction sites with single-track operations. The lines are thus being made fit for the digital age.
Cluster 1 projects
In the Cluster 1 projects, electronic signal boxes (elektronische Stellwerke: ESTW) are being built with digital elements and standardised interfaces. Operations are scheduled to begin late summer 2022.
On the Kleve-Kempen section of the line along the Lower Rhine’s left bank, signal boxes in Kleve, Bedburg-Hau, Goch, Weeze, Kevelaer, Geldern, Vernum, Nieukerk, Aldekerk and Kempen will be replaced by modern electronic technology. The company Scheidt & Bachmann GmbH is building 11 electronic ZSB 2000 signal boxes on this line, which will be operated from the six signal boxes in Kleve, Bedburg-Hau, Goch, Kevelaer, Nieukerk and Kempen. These will be upgraded accordingly. The first section of the Kleve-Geldern line is scheduled to begin operations in late 2021. The entire line will begin operations in autumn 2022.
● Renewal of around 170 signals and 30 point mechanisms
● Technical upgrade or renewal of 76 level crossings
See the DB press release, 11.05.21
Modernisation will take place on the Ruhr-Sieg line on these three sections: 1) Letmathe-Nachrodt-Altena-Werdohl, 2) Werdohl-Plettenberg-Finnentrop and 3) Grevenbrück-Lennestadt-Meggen, -Altenhundem, -Kirchhundem-Welschen-Ennest. The three 30- to 50-year-old signal boxes in Altenhundem/Meggen, Plettenberg and Nachrodt/Altena will be replaced by modern Simis-D signal box technology from Siemens AG. The signal boxes will be connected to the existing central electronic signal box in Finnentrop, which will be upgraded. From summer 2022, the Letmathe-Kreuztal line will be continuously operated by Finnentrop traffic controllers.
● Renewal of around 235 signals, 112 additional indicators and 73 point mechanisms
● Technical upgrade or complete renewal of 15 level crossings
● Installation of nine signal booms
See the DB press release, 31.03.21
On the Wörth-Germersheim-Speyer line, the seven existing signal boxes in Speyer, Germersheim, Wörth, Philippsburg and Rülzheim will be replaced by modern ESTW L90 signalling technology from Thales Deutschland GmbH. Modern ESTW-A signal boxes will be installed in Philippsburg, Speyer and Wörth stations. Operation will be via a new central ESTW in Germersheim. From Speyer-Germersheim and Germersheim-Wörth, a track-change operation including the consolidation of the signalling block system will be established to improve the quality of the service. Operations will begin in three stages by late summer 2022.
● Renewal of around 182 signals, 129 additional indicators and 105 point mechanisms
● Technical upgrade or complete renewal of 40 level crossings
● Installation of two signal booms
See the DB press release, 16.04.21
The project includes the two lines Ansbach-Triesdorf and Leutershausen-Wiedersbach-Ansbach-Wicklesgreuth. The company InoSig GmbH is replacing the old signal boxes in Ansbach and Triesdorf stations, which are around 55-years-old, with modern B950 electronic signal boxes. They will be operated from Ansbach from summer 2022.
● Renewal of 184 signals, 119 additional indicators and 84 point mechanisms
● Technical upgrade or complete renewal of one level crossing
● Use of one existing signal boom
See the DB press release, 28.04.21
Cluster 2 projects
In the Cluster 2 projects, digital signal boxes (Digitale Stellwerke: DSTW) will be built. Development work is being carried out in 2021 so construction can begin in 2022. Launch is scheduled for 2023 and 2024.