GERMAN Rail (DB) has awarded four contracts to upgrade the 70km Riedbahn between Frankfurt am Main and Mannheim, the first line to be upgraded under a new accelerated process to create a high-performance network.

The German federal government and DB announced plans for the high-performance network in June 2022, which will reduce the disruption on core parts of the network across the country caused by obsolete equipment. The strategy involves the full closure of lines to allow sufficient work to take place that will eliminate the full renewal backlog.

In the case of the Riedbahn, the line will be closed for five months to allow infrastructure work and station upgrades to take place. This includes the renewal of around 120km of track, 150 points, 140km of overhead line and signalling and train control systems. DB is also modernising all 20 stations along the route and constructing more than 15km of noise barriers to better protect local residents from operational noise.

DB says that when the project is complete, passengers will benefit from more punctual trains and more attractive stations.

The contracts have been awarded to Leonhard Weiss, Spitzke, Swietelsky Baugesellschaft and Siemens Mobility. The work has been divided into two lots, for the Frankfurt/Main - Biblis and Biblis - Mannheim sections.

DB has significantly increased the scope of the project to include conversion to electronic interlockings, which began in February 2022, while the cost of the station upgrades and an increased price buffer have also added to the overall project cost. DB has subsequently increased the funding required for the project to around €1.3bn, of which €1.1bn has already been secured in the federal budget.

In order to manage the construction workload and to avoid closing the line during the UEFA Euro 2024 football championship, which Germany is hosting from June 14 to July 14, DB is concentrating preparatory works to take place in January 2024, which will result in the closure of the line between January 1 and 22. DB says this “dress rehearsal” will also allow it to test processes and further optimise concepts ahead of the full closure later next summer.

The full high-performance network programme is targeting completion of upgrades on 40 route sections by 2030.