Connecting the cities of Dresden and Prague in around an hour’s journey time requires a new line between Heidenau and Ústí nad Labem as well as additional upgrades in the Czech Republic. This new line comprises the joint planning section between Germany and the Czech Republic. The approximate locations of the connection point at Heidenau and the tunnel portal in Ústí nad Labem have already been determined. From Dresden to Heidenau, trains will take the existing line. At the other end of the new line, Správa železnic is responsible for planning the route from the tunnel portal to Prague in close cooperation with DB Netz AG. The project is being managed jointly by a project manager from DB Netz AG, Kay Müller, and his counterpart from Správa železnic, Petr Provaznik.
Previous studies (including in 2008, 2012 and 2015) have already defined the investigation area between Dresden Main Station and the Czech border for services towards Ústí nad Labem and Prague, taking into account possible junctions with the existing Děčín–Dresden line. The area to be investigated was defined by considering the options for limiting the total length and constructing tunnels to cross underneath the Ore Mountains ridge.
Taking into account the settlements along the existing line, these studies determined the northernmost limit point: the first possible connection point with the existing line south of Dresden. This is located at Heidenau.
The southernmost point, i.e. the location at which the new line will cross the border, was determined from the planned routings in the Czech Republic north-west of Ústí nad Labem.
Further detailed planning will be needed to closely examine the area or corridor in which the tunnel will cross the German-Czech border (handover point). This is due to geological fault zones as well as a fault in the border area near Petrovice. The corridor along which the tunnel may be located has therefore been widened to around 1.8 km in this area. Within this corridor, various options were developed in 2018-2019 as the basis for the regional planning procedure.
Several phases of work to develop and review potential routes have been underway since around 2004. The entire area under consideration between Dresden and Ústí nad Labem has been examined based on technical, geological, ecological and spatial planning considerations. The aim was to identify low-conflict corridors and evaluate the technical and geological feasibility.
In 2018, further alternatives suggested by third parties and by DB itself were incorporated into the process with the aim of supplementing existing options and potentially reducing the conflicts identified up to that point. In particular, these included the options initially known as Z 6, DB 7 and DB 8, as well as Option BI (contributed by the “Basistunnel nach Prag” (Base Tunnel to Prague) action group) and an alternative route for Option BI consisting of an all-tunnel option (long base tunnel) from Heidenau known as Option BI Alternative.
These new proposed options were developed in 2018 and 2019 in similar depth and included in the studies for the preparation of the regional planning procedure. The tunnel options contributed by the action group have been subjected to equally rigorous technical development in terms of the routing parameters and operational requirements and are included in the regional planning procedure documents as tunnel options A and B. In 2019, an additional option for a deep tunnel with a shorter route was added, i.e. a direct route from Heidenau to the Czech border (Option C). This shows another possible route for a tunnel option, which may even be cheaper given its shorter length. The options developed with partially above-ground routes on the German side of the base tunnel are known as Options D to G.
A brief description of all options can also be found in the media centre.
In presenting the regional planning assessment, the State Directorate of Saxony confirmed that an all-tunnel option and corridor option G are compatible with spatial planning requirements, subject to certain stipulations. It concluded that corridor options D, E and F are not compatible with spatial planning requirements.
The optimal route for an all-tunnel option within the corridor approved by the regional planning procedure will be worked out in the preliminary design phase, taking account of the stipulations of the regional planning assessment. Improvements to corridor option G will also be examined during the preliminary design work in light of the stipulations of the regional planning assessment.
The all-tunnel option and partially above ground option will be designed simultaneously. The two options will then be compared.
The preferred option will be submitted to the Bundestag for parliamentary scrutiny.
From Ústí nad Labem, the new line is also planned for mixed passenger and freight traffic. A tunnel option for crossing the Elbe in Ústí nad Labem is currently being pursued, but an alternative proposal with a new railway bridge has not yet been ruled out. For the route through the Bohemian Central Uplands, the only option now being pursued is a tunnel east of the Elbe of up to 18 km in total length. The tunnel mouth will lie to the east of Litoměřice. Here, the route will join the existing Kolín–Děčín line.
For the remainder of the route to Prague, only passenger traffic is planned. Running roughly parallel to the D8 motorway, the track layout will permit speeds of up to 320 km/h. It is planned that trains will run from the outskirts of Prague through the Střížkovský Tunnel straight into the city centre.
Further information is available at www.spravazeleznic.cz/vrt