Digitalisation at record speed: new Finnentrop interlocking goes into operation
Digitale Schiene Deutschland continues to pick up speed: on 23 May, after only around 1.5 years, the completely renewed interlocking and level crossing safety technology on the Ruhr-Sieg line between Letmathe and Kreuztal was successfully launched. This event was celebrated in style on 1 June, on site in Altena in the Sauerland region, with guests from politics and industry.
23 May 2022 was a special day for the Fast-track Programme (Schnellläuferprogramm : SLP). After only about 1.5 years, the first SLP project was successfully put into operation. Trains began running on schedule again from 5am on the Ruhr-Sieg line after a one-week closure.
The region now benefits from modern digital technology that makes the rail network more reliable and robust. This technology also enables better control and more flexible train movements. It’s also now easier and less costly to maintain the line.
The project to expand and modernise Finnentrop's interlocking is one of seven projects set out in the €500 million Fast-track Programme. The 30- to 50-year-old interlockings in Nachrodt, Plettenberg and Altenhundem, have been fully replaced. Three new interlocking modules in Altena, Plettenberg and Altenhundem connect to the central interlocking in Finnentrop, that now controls the entire line.
Siemens Mobility GmbH, worked on behalf of Deutsche Bahn (DB) as general contractor, together with LEONHARD WEISS GmbH & Co. KG – modernising the signalling and interlocking technology in record time. On about 45 km of the line between Letmathe and Kreuztal, 385 km of cable were laid, 235 signals and 73 point machines were renewed, and nine new signal brackets were installed. In addition, four level crossings were renewed or replaced and eleven level crossings were adapted to support the new technology.
The core goal of the Fast-track Programme is to accelerate the digitalisation of rail. To reach this goal, DB has improved processes and established standards in cooperation with the federal government and industry. This made it possible to realised this project in a very short time. Any lessons learned along the way are being used to continuously improve plans of Digitale Schiene Deutschland for digitalising the entire German rail network. The result being: Germany soon benefits from a digital and future rail network.
One of the three new interlocking modules is located in Altena, Sauerland. Its commissioning ceremony was held on 1 June, 2022. At this event, Jens Bergmann, Member of the Management Board for Infrastructure Planning and Projects at DB Netz AG, and Andre Rodenbeck, CEO Rail Infrastructure at Siemens Mobility, provided insights into the project and the construction process. Other attendees included: Uwe Kober, mayor of the city of Altena, the press and other guests from politics and industry.
Both speakers praised the close cooperation between parties and thanked those involved for their efforts. Bergmann said digitalisation will make it possible to create a new network for Germany and, in future, offer more environmentally friendly trains for DB passengers. Rodenbeck explained that digital interlocking technology reduces operational disruption and lays the foundation for rail automation and increased mobility on the rails.
Digitalisation requires much data to be transmitted – which in turn requires significant amounts of cabling. The insights into the inner workings of Altena’s new signalling module were impressive: with countless cables, computers and LED lights. The signals, point machines and level crossings along the line are connected to the interlocking module via cables. Everything along the Ruhr-Sieg line is controlled by DB dispatchers in Finnentrop’s central interlocking.