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Published: 9 September 2017
Rastatt - partial reopening on 7th October
The crucial Rhine Valley rail line is still on course for a partial reopening to freight trains at 00.01 hours on 7th October
“We still stick to that,”DB’s regional head Frank Roser said, adding that the reopening could not be accelerated given the time required for new concrete to solidify.
Twenty workers are engaged in constructing a new reinforced concrete floor to support the rail track over the collapsed tunnel.
The first section, a 100m long slab, 11m wide and 1m thick is currently being poured to cover the eastern tunnel. It will want one month to solidify entirely, although the actual steel rails can be installed somewhat earlier.
Construction of the second, identical concrete floor for the western tunnel has been accelerated, with completion estimated to follow some 10 days later - so by 17th October.
Meanwhile, freight operations have been all but crippled since the tunnel collapsed on 12th August and rail freight companies are seething at the infrastructure authorities and railway managers.
Weighing into the argument now is Lord Berkeley, Chairman of the UK Rail Freight Group, which is part of the European Rail Freight Association. "Customers are furious with DB for not having contingency plans - as required under Article 54 of Directive 2012/34/EU - worked out with neighbouring infrastructure managers such as SNCF Réseau and ÖBB infrastructure," he said.
"DB Netz were like rabbits caught in a car headlight; Guillaume Pepy, the SNCF President, was on holiday [when the tracks collapsed] and it was left to ERFA members SBB Cargo, BLS Cargo and Hupac to demand co-ordination between DB Netz, SNCF and ÖBB infrastructure and railway undertakings.
"There has been no relaxation of the language rule in France [ie so the diversion route is open only to trains whose drivers speak French,]there are not enough diesel locos to use on the non-electrified diversion routes finally arranged and DB ensured that most of the diversion paths available went to DB trains.
"So the other operators are suffering very badly; they must claim compensation from DB and the German Government and insist that this does not get bogged down in the German courts for years. After all, in the UK, if Network Rail closes a line, it has to pay compensation on terms dictated by the Office of Rail Regulation, often running into many millions."