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Mannheim–Karlsruhe–Basel railway

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Title: Mannheim–Karlsruhe–Basel railway  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Main-Neckar Railway, Bruchsal station, Turin–Milan high-speed railway, Württemberg Western Railway, Bologna–Florence high-speed railway
Collection: High-Speed Railway Lines in Germany, Railway Lines in Baden-Württemberg
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mannheim–Karlsruhe–Basel railway

The Mannheim–Karlsruhe–Basel railway, also known as the Rhine Valley Line (German: Rheintalbahn), is a railway line that runs from Mannheim, Germany, via Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, and Freiburg to Basel, Switzerland. It is part of the Baden Mainline (Badische Hauptbahn).


  • History 1
  • Operations 2
  • Karlsruhe–Basel high speed line 3
    • Construction arrangements 3.1
    • Time frame 3.2
    • Cost and finances 3.3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5


The line was financed and built by the Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway (Großherzogliche Badische Staatsbahn). The first section between Mannheim and Heidelberg was opened in 1840, and it was completed in several sections to Basel in 1855.

Date Start of section End of section
12 September 1840 Mannheim Hbf Heidelberg Hbf
10 April 1843 Heidelberg Hbf Karlsruhe Hbf
1 May 1844 Karlsruhe Hbf Rastatt
6 May 1844 Rastatt Baden-Oos
1 June 1844 Baden-Oos Offenburg
1 August 1845 Offenburg Freiburg Hbf
1 June 1847 Freiburg Hbf Müllheim (Baden)
15 June 1847 Müllheim Schliengen
8 November 1848 Schliengen Efringen
22 January 1851 Efringen Haltingen
1855 Haltingen Basel

The line was originally built to 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in), but since the surrounding countries built their railways to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge, the line was converted to standard gauge between 1854 and 1855.

Since Schwetzingen and Hockenheim missed by the line through Heidelberg, another line was opened in 1870 on the Mannheim–Schwetzingen–Graben–Eggenstein–Karlsruhe route. A shorter and more direct line from Graben to Karlsruhe via Blankenloch was added in 1895 as a strategic railway. This converted the Karlsruhe–Eggenstein–Graben section of the old line into a branch line, now known as the Hardt Railway and partly incorporated into the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn.

Bad Schönborn-Kronau station

In the northern section between Mannheim and Karlsruhe there are two different lines, the Mannheim–Graben-Neudorf–Karlsruhe line (the Baden Mainline as such) as well as the Mannheim–Heidelberg–Bruchsal–Durlach–Karlsruhe line (the Baden-Kurpfalz Railway). Particularly after World War I it became a major line for international traffic. Beginning in the 1950s,the Rhine Valley line was progressively electrified, with the whole line fully electrified by the middle of 1958.

Under a German-Swiss convention, the entire line was supposed to be converted to at least four lines by 2008, so that it can serve as the main northern approach route to the new Gotthard Base Tunnel line to Italy. Deutsche Bahn is building a high-speed line for this project from Karlsruhe to Basel, including new and upgraded sections.

Between Karlsruhe and Rastatt two lines run relatively near each other, effectively providing four tracks. The double-track section between Rastatt station and Rastatt-Niederbühl is to be widened to four lines, probably by the construction of a parallel tunnel. Between Rastatt Niederbühl and Offenburg two new high-speed tracks have been completed next to the old double-track line. A new section of line from Schliengen to Haltingen between Freiburg and Basel, including the 9385 metre-long Katzenberg Tunnel, was opened on 9 December 2012 to avoid a narrow, winding section between the Rhine and the Isteiner Klotz hills.[1] The remaining sections between Offenburg, Freiburg and the Katzenberg Tunnel are still being planned.


Rhine-Neckar S-Bahn train between Mannheim and Heidelberg

The Rhine Valley line is today one of the most important lines of Germany both for passenger and goods traffic, including international traffic to and from Switzerland and France. The main railway stations are Mannheim, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Offenburg, Freiburg and Basel Bad. Other stations are Baden-Baden, Rastatt and Bruchsal.

Since December 2003, line S3 of the Rhein-Neckar S-Bahn has operated on the Mannheim–Karlsruhe section of line and S4 (SpeyerBruchsal) on the (SpeyerKarlsruhe) section. Lines S31, S32, S4 and S41 of the Stadtbahn Karlsruhe operate between Bruchsal and Achern.

At each end of the line are two of the largest marshalling yards in Europe: Mannheim marshalling yard and Basel SBB marshalling yard in Muttenz. The other marshalling yards of this line in Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Offenburg, Freiburg im Breisgau and Basel Badischer Bahnhof have been closed.

Karlsruhe–Basel high speed line

On 21 January 1987 the Federal Minister of Transport Werner Dollinger wrote to Deutsche Bundesbahn agreeing to the construction of a new line from Karlsruhe to Offenburg and Basel as part of the 1985 federal transport plan. The cost was estimated at the time to be about 2.3 billion D Mark and building should have begun by the end of 1987. Once finished, travel time between Hamburg and Basel was expected to be reduced by over two hours to five and a half hours. The maximum speed between Karlsruhe and Offenburg would have been 250 km/h and 200 km/h between Offenburg and Basel.[2]

In March 1993 the first section between Bühl and Achern (9 km) was put into service.[3]

The current plan of the project manager, DB ProjektBau, is the continued development of the line as the Neu- und Ausbaustrecke Karlsruhe–Basel (i.e. a mixture of new high-speed line and upgraded line). This line forms the most important northern access route to the Swiss AlpTransit project and is therefore part of a bilateral convention for an increase in the efficiency in rail transport between Switzerland and Germany.

Between Appenweier and Karlsruhe the line is also part of the Magistrale for Europe from Paris to Budapest, which is supported by the European Union as part of its Trans-European Networks.

The federal transport plan forecast that there would be 38 long-distance trains daily each way on the Offenburg–Basel section. It forecast that there would be 137 daily goods trains running from north to south and 147 daily goods trains running from south to north.[4]

Construction arrangements

The project is arranged into nine sections:

  • Section 1: KarlsruheRastatt-Süd (km 60.66–100.87): 24.3 km, including the 4270 metre-long Rastatt Tunnel, which will pass under the whole of the town of Rastatt and the Federbach-Niederung river. This section has planning approval. At the end of February 2012 a notice concerning the tender of the construction contract was published. The estimated contract value is € 808 million.[5] The tender process began on 2 June 2012.[6] Construction is expected to start in 2013 and be completed in 2022.[7]
  • Section 2: Rastatt-Süd–Sinzheim (km 100.87–114.37): 13.5 km (open)
  • Section 3: BühlOttersweier (km 114.37–121.75): 7.4 km (open)
  • Section 4: AchernSasbach (km 121.75–130.53): 7.8 km (open)
  • Section 5: RenchenAppenweier (km 130.52–140.16): 9.6 km (open)
  • Section 6: Appenweier–Offenburg (km 140.16–145.48): 5.3 km (open)
  • Section 7: Offenburg–Herbolzheim (km 145.48–178.00): 32.6 km (planned)
    • Section 7.1: Offenburg Süd–Hohberg (about 8.7 km): the proposal is to build new tracks for 250 km/h close to current line,[8] in the summer of 2008 46,000 private objections were received[9] and the planning process has not been completed.
    • Section 7.2: Hohberg–Friesenheim (km 154.200 to 161.200): the proposal is to build new tracks for 250 km/h close to current line and Friesenheim station is to be rebuilt. The planning process is not complete.
    • Section 7.3: LahrMahlberg (km 161–172): the proposal is to build new tracks for 250 km/h on the western side of the current line.[10] Planning approval was received in 2011.
    • Section 7.4: Ettenheim–Herbolzheim (km 172.1–178.0): the proposal is to build new tracks for 250 km/h on the western side of the current line, including the rebuilding of Ringsheim and Herbolzheim stations. The planning process is not complete.
  • Section 8: Kenzingen–Heitersheim (km 178.00–222.40): 44.4 km (planned), this involves a bypass for freight trains to the west of Freiburg, generally along the A 5 autobahn, including the Mengen Tunnel (1,956 m), designed for 160 km/h. Passenger trains will run on the current route through Freiburg. The planning process is not complete.
  • Section 9: BuggingenBasel (km 222.40–271.61): 37.4 km (under construction):
    • Section 9.0: Buggingen–Auggen: planning process is not complete.
Katzenberg Tunnel shell during construction
    • Section 9.1: Auggen–Haltingen this 21 km-long section, including the 9.4 km-long Katzenberg tunnel, was put in service in December 2012.[1]
    • Section 9.2: Haltingen-Weil am Rhein, planning approval for this 5 km-long section on the northern edge of Basel was achieved in 2010[11] and construction has started.
    • Section 9.3: Basel, planning process has not been completed.

The line between Rastatt south and Offenburg has a speed limit of 250 km/h. This speed limit will also apply to the sections of new line between Offenburg and Kenzingen and between Buggingen and Basel. Although new lines in Germany are now planned to allow running at 300 km/h, the uncompleted sections of the Karlsruhe–Basel lines are continuing to be built on alignments suitable for 250 km/h running because little saving of time would be achieved with higher speeds.[4]

Time frame

Originally the project was to have been completed in 2008, in accordance with an agreement with Switzerland. By 12 December 2004, sections 2-6, from Rastatt-Süd to Offenburg, were complete, and other sections were under construction, notably the Katzenberg tunnel. The remaining sections were still in the planning phase. With Federal Budget cuts the project will now not be completed until 2020.[12] The Federal Government has indicated that it intends to make funds available for further sections as planning approvals are achieved.[4]

Cost and finances

According to unofficial estimates the cost of the project is about € 4.6 billion.[13] In 2006 about € 108 million was invested in it.[14]


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  4. ^ a b c
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  14. ^ Investitionsbilanz 2006 der DB AG Eurailpress of 2 January 2007 (German)


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