Following the fatal train accident in Garmisch-Patenkirchen at the beginning of June, Deutsche Bahn announced that 200,000 concrete sleepers throughout the rail network would have to be checked for weak points.
The concrete sleepers examined were of the same type as those on the section of track used by the train involved in the accident, it said at the time. According to DB, this corresponds to about 0.25 percent of all concrete sleepers in the network.
On average, the components are 15 years old. If "recognizable changes on the surface" were discovered, the sleepers would be replaced. The work could lead to detour or delays, the company said after the accident.
In the meantime, the suspicion of a defect in the components in question has been substantiated. "Initial preliminary findings from technical reports by independent testing institutes now suggest that there is a manufacturer's defect," the railroad announced on Friday. "In some cases, the sleepers show irregularities in the material composition."
Already, the impact on rail traffic is immense. The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" has a more detailed list of the affected sections of track. According to this, the railroads had to completely close 47 sections nationwide in August, and the speed had to be reduced on 118 other passages.
On the affected sections of track, if they are not closed, the trains are usually only allowed to travel half as fast as usual. According to the report, there are dilapidated sections in almost all German states.
The reason for the damage to the concrete sleepers is apparently chemical reactions that cause the otherwise hard concrete to become brittle, writes the SZ with reference to experts. The railroad, it says, hopes to be able to replace most of the affected sleepers by the end of the year.
Image by Erich Westendarp