GERMANY’s chancellor, Mr Olaf Scholz, and the CEO of German Rail (DB), Dr Richard Lutz, officiated at a ground-breaking ceremony in Cottbus on May 10 for a new €1bn maintenance workshop for ICE 4 trains.

500 red balloons were released to mark the first 500 new jobs and apprenticeships that will be created at the workshop when the first hall opens in 2024. After the completion of the second workshop hall in 2026, the number of employees will increase to 1200.

The new workshop is being built in front of an existing DB facility in Cottbus and this will be DB's first heavy maintenance facility for ICE 4 trains. The first hall will be 445m long and will have two tracks while the second hall will have four tracks and will be 570m long. This means the halls will be able to accommodate 374m-long 13-car XXL ICE trains or two 200m-long seven-car trains. Employees will be able to work on all coaches at the same time, which should speed up maintenance. DB says the overhaul of an ICE 4 with all the necessary work steps should take less than two weeks in the new facility compared with up to five weeks in existing ICE workshops.

Elevated rails will enable employees to work easily on side flaps and wheelsets. Bogie changers specially developed by DB will be installed in the hall floor so that bogies can be moved to the side for maintenance, eliminating the need for lifting. Components will also be changed much faster than currently.

Artist's impression of DB's new maintenance workshop in Cottbus.

The project is one of the first regeneration schemes in the Lausitz coal region and is being funded through the investment law for coal regions whereby the federal and state governments support Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and North Rhine-Westphalia, which are affected by the phase-out of coal.

“The construction of the new railway depot in Cottbus shows how structural change can succeed,” Scholz said. “Such innovation projects not only create good jobs - they also bring new economic power and future viability for the entire region.”

“The new plant in Cottbus is being built at record speed,” Lutz said. “We need this new plant so that our ICE fleet can continue to grow and so that more people can take the train. This is the only way to achieve our climate goals.”

As part of DB’s Strong Rail strategy, DB plans to have 450 ICEs in service the end of the decade. By 2024, the number of ICE 4 cars will grow from almost 100 vehicles today to 137.