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DB's Massive Preventive Measure: 480,000 Sleepers to be Replaced This Year

DB's Massive Preventive Measure: 480,000 Sleepers to be Replaced This Year
photo: Archive RAILTARGET/DB's Massive Preventive Measure: 480,000 Sleepers to be Replaced This Year
03 / 06 / 2023

As a result of its preventive inspection program, Deutsche Bahn is replacing a total of around 480,000 sleepers this year. Normally, about 80,000 sleepers are renewed each year.

It involves more than 400 additional construction sites on the rail network with a significant impact on travellers and freight customers. Wherever DB discovers particular anomalies in the sleepers during inspections, they are replaced as quickly as possible. To ensure the safety of rail operations, trains can only run at reduced speeds in the affected sections until they are replaced. In some cases, DB has to close lines even before the actual construction work begins. Inspection and replacement of sleepers thus have a significant negative impact on punctuality in long-distance and regional services.

A DB spokeswoman said, "We are replacing the affected sleepers as quickly as possible. It is an immense effort. Skilled personnel and construction machinery are already in short supply given our other construction workload. It will take until all the affected sleepers have been replaced throughout Germany, at least until next year. We ask all passengers and freight customers to understand the restrictions."

The background to the testing program is the train accident in Garmisch-Partenkirchen almost a year ago. The cause of the accident has not yet been conclusively determined. According to the current state of knowledge, there are many indications that concrete sleepers could at least have been the cause of the accident. Immediately after an initial suspicion of a possible manufacturing defect as the cause of the accident, DB initiated a special inspection program for concrete sleepers. DB used the findings of these inspections and further material investigations as an opportunity to preventively check sleepers with a specific aggregate mixture and replace them as a highly precautionary measure. DB has also set up a group of internal and external experts to continuously examine possible further preventive measures for the maintenance of concrete sleepers. As a purely precautionary measure, DB is also reviewing other rail infrastructure facilities to determine how any risks can be further minimized.

While the investigations into the cause of the accident by the public prosecutor's office and the Federal Bureau of Railway Accident Investigation (BEU) have not yet been completed, DB has also commissioned an independent internal investigation by a law firm. It is intended, in particular, to clarify whether the train accident is connected with possible internal omissions. DB is, of course, cooperating fully with the investigating authorities.

Source: Deutsche Bahn