Cologne–Aachen high-speed railway
|Cologne–Aachen high-speed railway|
Course of the Cologne-Aachen upgraded line
|Native name||Schnellfahrstrecke Köln–Aachen|
|Line length||70 km (43 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||15 kV/16.7 Hz AC Overhead catenary|
|Operating speed||250 km/h (155.3 mph) (maximum)|
The Cologne–Aachen high-speed line is the German part of the Trans-European transport networks project high-speed line Paris–Brussels–Cologne. It is not a newly built railway line, but a project to upgrade the existing railway line which was opened in 1841 by the Rhenish Railway Company. When it was continued into Belgium in 1843, it became the world's first international railway line.
The line inside Germany has a length of about 70 kilometres (43 mi). The first 40 km (25 mi) from Cologne to Düren have been rebuilt. Since 2002 the line allows for speeds up to 250 km/h (160 mph). Separate tracks have been built parallel to the high-speed tracks for local S-Bahn traffic. The remaining line from Düren to Aachen allows speeds up to 160 km/h (100 mph) with some slower sections. Upgrades of Düren–Aachen are planned for the near future. In Belgium, the high-speed line is continued as HSL 3.
Regional-Express services on the line are RE 1 (NRW-Express) and RE 9 (Rhein-Sieg-Express) with push-pull trains with five double-decker carriages. Long-distance trains are operated by Thalys between Paris and Cologne (six pairs of trains each day), three pairs of ICE 3M trains daily between Frankfurt and Brussels Monday to Saturday and a morning ICE 2 between Aachen and Berlin.
On 21 August 1837 the Rhenish Railway Company received a concession from the Prussian government to build the railway line from Cologne via Düren and Aachen to the Belgian border, a distance of 86 kilometres. The first seven kilometres of track from the original Cologne terminus at Thürmchen (north of the Cologne walls on the bank of the Rhine) to Müngersdorf was opened in 1839. Two further sections to Lövenich and from Düren to Aachen were completed in 1840 and 1841. This includes the 1,632 m long Königsdorf Tunnel, which had its roof removed in 1954. The resulting cutting was widened in 2000 to accommodate four tracks. The last section to the Belgian border at Herbesthal was opened to traffic on 15 October 1843. There was a grade of 1:38 between Aachen and Ronheide (the Ronheide ramp). Until 1855, cable-haulage powered by a stationary steam engine assisted trains up the slope. The line was the first line linking a German railway line with a country outside the German Confederation.
The opening of the line created further connections as the already well-developed Belgian network had two connections with northern France, but the routes to Paris was only finished in 1846, on 16 June from Valenciennes, and on 20 June 1846 from Lille.
With the opening of the new Cologne Central Station (Centralbahnhof), a new section was opened on 15 October 1859 from Herkulesstr junction (east of Köln-Ehrenfeld station) to the new station, now called Köln Hauptbahnhof.
Work began with a symbolic driving of a pile on 22 October 1997. The federal and state governments agreed to spend 1.1 billion D-Marks on building two new tracks between Cologne and Düren for high-speed trains and develop the existing line for S-Bahn services. Since 14 December 2003, trains have been able to operate on this section at up to 250 km/h. Parts of the parallel S-Bahn line are only single track. All stations between Cologne and Düren were rebuilt as S-Bahn stations. Under a second stage, the section between Düren and Langerwehe is to be upgraded for speeds up to 200 km/h. The section from Eschweiler to Aachen, which currently has a speed limit of 110 km/h to 140 km/h, would be cleared for 160 km/h. The section from Aachen to Aachen-Süd (on the border with Belgium) would also be cleared for 160 km/h operations.
The Busch Tunnel at the border is the oldest railway tunnel in Germany that is still in use with some parts dating back to 1838. When the line was electrified, the limited space inside the tunnel meant that the line had to be rebuilt as a single track. Because of the tunnel's poor conditions, speeds had to be limited to 40 km/h (25 mph). A second parallel single-line tunnel was built in between 2004 and 2007. The old tunnel was subsequently rebuilt with a new lining and was returned to service on 23 October 2011 as a single track, with increased clearance.
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