Problematic railway sleepers: Delays & detours – use & App

After the serious train accident near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the railways had 200,000 sleepers checked and actually found problems with the sleepers. These are the consequences.


Deutsche Bahn has announced that it intends to complete the special inspection of concrete sleepers by the end of August. Since July, the railway experts have checked around 200,000 sleepers of a certain type and manufacturer nationwide.

According to Deutsche Bahn, initial preliminary findings from technical reports by independent testing institutes suggest that there is a manufacturer error: some of the sleepers have irregularities in the material properties.

Wherever the experts discovered anomalies, the railways had to react. In most cases, trains run more slowly over the affected sleepers. In some cases, the railway also had to block sections of the route. The consequences are diversions, longer travel times and rail replacement services. There are currently restrictions due to the investigations at a total of around 165 points in the rail network. The federal states of Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia are primarily affected.

Here the thresholds are examined.


Here the thresholds are examined.

© DB Netz AG

DB has already been able to replace the sleepers on the first routes, and concrete construction dates have already been scheduled for around 90 percent of the affected sections. All affected routes should be open to traffic again by the end of 2022. However, some of the sleeper replacements will last until 2023.

The damage caused cannot be specifically quantified at this time. The DB assumes a three-digit million amount. Deutsche Bahn will have possible recourse claims against the sleeper manufacturer legally examined on the basis of the final expert opinion.

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The railways are already struggling with massive delays in their trains, and in 2022 they are particularly late. But now there is another reason for delays: Deutsche Bahn is replacing concrete sleepers in the rail network. There is a serious reason for this.

Defective concrete sleepers under suspicion

On June 3, 2022, a regional train operated by Bahn AG had an accident on the route between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich. Five people died and almost 70 were injured, some seriously. Research into the cause of the accident continues to this day. More and more broken concrete sleepers are the focus of the investigators. A document from the Bundestag Transport Committee is said to state that “partially damaged concrete sleepers” could have caused a “loss of lane guidance” and “an impermissible lane widening”. The document speaks of “horizontal fractures in the concrete sleepers” and the resulting shifting of the rails, as reported by Bayerischer Rundfunk. However, Deutsche Bahn has not yet officially confirmed the connection between damaged concrete sleepers and the tragic train accident.

Bahn checks concrete sleepers and replaces them

But now the railway announces that it is carrying out an “extensive inspection and replacement program for concrete sleepers”. With reference to the train accident near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the railway writes: “The work is being carried out as a precautionary measure, since in connection with the accident near Garmisch-Partenkirchen on June 3, sleepers of a certain type of construction are also being examined by the investigating authorities. Even if the investigations are still have not been completed and the cause of the accident has not yet been determined, DB has decided, purely as a precautionary measure, to examine sleepers of the same construction on the network.”

The consequences for rail customers

The railways have already started these inspections. Around 200,000 sleepers would be examined. If the railway employees find anything unusual, they would replace the sleepers as quickly as possible. However, until the sleepers have been replaced, the trains will travel over the affected areas at a lower speed – rail passengers are already familiar with this. In some cases, this can even lead to the railway completely blocking sections of the route.

The thresholds to be checked nationwide are on average only fifteen years old. According to current knowledge, they make up around 0.25 percent of all concrete sleepers in the Deutsche Bahn network. The first sleeper changes have already begun, and Deutsche Bahn is currently working on a comprehensive plan.

Find out before you start your journey

It points out to all train passengers that there may be restrictions such as diversions or extensions of travel times due to the work. And of course delays. It is therefore particularly important for train travelers that you check on or in the DB Navigator app before you start your journey whether and how your planned route will be affected.

Dead and injured: train accident in Bavaria – here the train & hotline informs

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