Tunnel collapse closes key European route

By Keith Fender

FOLLOWING the collapse on August 12 of a new railway tunnel being built under the German town of Rastatt, the Karlsruhe to Basel main line railway (above the new tunnel)was badly damaged, with significant track deformation leaving it closed to all rail traffic for at least eight weeks.

The damaged Karlsruhe to Basel main line on the surface, after the tunnel collapse, as the void is plugged with concrete. Courtesy DB

This two-track section between Rastatt and Baden Baden is already a major bottleneck in the route between Northern Europe and Switzerland/Italy, being used by up to 200 freight trains a day, plus more than 100 regional and international passenger services.

German national rail operator DB and the tunnel contractors spent September stabilising the collapsed tunnel by pouring in more than 10,500cubic metres of concrete to completely fill a 160 metre-long section and then building thick concrete slabs on the surface where the tunnels will pass under – the railway will be rebuilt on top of these slabs.

Reopening is planned for October 2, but in the meantime freight services have been severely disrupted and are being diverted via often much longer alternative routes – some via neighbouring countries. Passenger services have been replaced by buses either side of the blockage.

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