For almost forty years, the relay interlocking at the Schkopau chemical cluster in Saxony-Anhalt functioned with admirable reliability. But nothing lasts forever, and the time eventually came to replace the system installed back in 1983. The chemicals company Dow Olefinverbund GmbH has invested several million euros on a fully computerised interlocking, giving the Schkopau site a modern and efficient connection to Europe's rail freight network, and permitting direct rail access from the north.
Dow accounts for the bulk of the transport to and from the site, but other chemical companies also use the industrial park's facilities to load their products. In 2019, over 1 million tonnes of chemical products were moved using the park's rail system, and this figure is rising all the time. These volumes were joined by 3.2 million tonnes of lignite for Schkopau's power plant, which is operated by Uniper.
Increased demand and more transports
Growing freight volumes in recent years have placed greater demands on rail technology. The new interlocking is designed to master them: signallers can now operate a total of 66 signals and 61 points with the click of a mouse. Construction work on the project lasted just twelve months but entailed the installation of 103 km of cable, the modernisation of 10 sets of points and the complete renewal of the electronics system.
"Modernising the interlocking is an important investment in the site's infrastructure and future competitiveness," says Dow's managing director Christoph Maier. It will also help to shift more freight from road to rail in the future, which will protect the environment."
Dr Sigrid Nikutta, CEO of DB Cargo and Member of the Management Board for Freight Transport at Deutsche Bahn AG: "DB Cargo and Dow have been rail transport partners for over 22 years. During this time, our subsidiary MEG ((Mitteldeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH) has transported over 167 million tonnes of freight for Dow. The new electronic interlocking now forms the perfect link between the important chemical cluster at Schkopau and the green rail network."