Criss-crossing Europe: an EC train from Prague arrives at Berlin Südkreuz station (Deutsche Bahn AG/Volker Emersleben)

Technical infrastructure

System separation point between the German and the Czech traction current systems

On electrified railway lines, a system separation point is the transition between two power systems. As Germany and the Czech Republic have different traction power systems, the project must include an interface between them.

The Czech railway network is electrified with two different systems. Lines in the north and centre of the country (including the Greater Prague area) use 3 kV direct current, while those in the south and west use 25 kV alternating current. The design work will examine various options for the location of the system separation point.

Overhead line equipment

To operate the railway and supply power to the trains, an overhead line is needed. Overhead line equipment comprises all infrastructure components needed along the track for electric rail operations and electric traction. The overhead line system includes catenary, masts and foundations, earthing, cantilevers, switches and insulators.

The masts can be made of concrete or steel. They usually stand on a drilled foundation. The overhead line and electric trains are supplied with traction power straight from the sub-stations. Special switching equipment controls the power supply at all times.

Overhead line on open-air track (Deutsche Bahn AG)

There are various options for installing overhead line in tunnels. Further design work will examine which overhead line system is most suitable for the Erzgebirge Base Tunnel.

ETCS: Autopilot for the railways

EU directives have made the use of ETCS (European Train Control System) mandatory across Europe; this obligation has been transposed into national law by the member states. Migration to ETCS is underway Europe-wide. The aim is to replace the multitude of different train control systems used across the continent with a uniform, interoperable European standard. Harmonising systems and processes increases the reliability of cross-border rail operations and removes the technical obstacles to direct services across the border.

ETCS enables trains to run without lineside signals, while at the same time improving safety. The system can be likened to an autopilot, such as those that have been commonly used in commercial aviation for decades. Based on current technology, it is expected that the ETCS Level 2 system will be installed on the line. 

Using information from the route atlas, precise position determination and set reference values, the system monitors the train and can thus make the right decisions in good time to ensure train safety even at high speeds. Just like an aeroplane pilot, however, the train driver has the last word – he or she can also drive and control the train if the system fails or other unforeseen events occur.

ETCS Level 2 (DB AG)