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Special requirements in a special network

One third of the route network of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) is classified as a UNESCO world heritage site and is located in or on civil engineering structures. This means that the RhB has to invest large sums every year to preserve the substance of the civil engineering structures. The RhB invested around 192 million Swiss francs in its infrastructure in 2015 alone.

Power supply of the Rhaetian Railway
The traction power supply of the Rhaetian Railway is essential for safe, trouble-free operation on the company's lines.

It is currently modernizing an essential part of the infrastructure: the energy supply to the lines and vehicles, without which reliable, punctual train services are just not possible. The RhB powers its electric trains on the main lines with an 11 kV single-phase alternating current at a frequency of 16.7 hertz which is supplied by the customary means of overhead lines. This frequency is the same as that on the remainder of the Swiss rail network, although the voltage is 4 kV lower. The energy is transported over medium distances using the railway's own supply network, which runs as a single-phase, three-conductor network with the same frequency of 16.7 hertz, but at a voltage of 66 kV.

The RhB management wanted to be able to modernize and simplify the operation of the systems, to obtain data in greater quantity and detail about the state of the network and the stations, and to improve the overall efficiency of the automation solution, especially for the standby service that has to be able to access the systems at all times for remote maintenance. None of these requirements could be realized with the existing technology, so the RhB decided on a comprehensive retrofit for the switchgear.

About Rhaetian Railway

The 384 kilometer long route network of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) boasts many fascinating and impressive statistics: Over 90 percent of the route network was laid before 1914, and one third is at an altitude of more than 1,500 meters above sea level.


Spectacular bridges, numerous tunnels and one of the highest route sections over the Bernina Pass at an altitude of 2253 m above sea level are a testament to the feats of construction accomplished since the railway was founded in 1888. Less spectacular, but essential for the operation of the railway, is the power supply to the route. In the harsh mountain climate, it not only has to be rugged and reliable, but also capable of being quickly brought back into operation after damage caused by wind or snow. Thanks to an integrated solution for the automation and switchgear, the standby service for the traction power supplies can now localize malfunctions more precisely and rectify them more quickly.

From Simatic S5 to Simatic S7

The migration to a new system and the addition of Comfort Panels provide a greater quantity of data and facilitate the maintenance of the traction power supply.

In April 2016, the pilot system at Landquart Station became the first of the 14 stations planned to be converted. The existing technology, based on Simatic S5, has been migrated to Simatic S7, and the protective equipment has been modernized with up-to-date Siprotec systems. Furthermore, the mimic diagram previously used for operation in the substations has been replaced by a 19'' Simatic HMI TP1900 widescreen Comfort Panel with touch operation, which was configured in the TIA Portal.


Landquart was selected as the pilot project because the station is one of the RhB's technologically most complex installations. Ursin Gabriel, an engineer in the infrastructure department and one of the project managers at RhB, says that Landquart not only has a substation that supplies and monitors power to the sections between Chur and Küblis, but is also one of the four feeder stations. He is very pleased with the progress of the project so far: "Of course, there are always teething troubles with any pilot project, but together with Repower and Siemens, we have resolved them satisfactorily. We have seen that there is a huge advantage in having one contact for all questions. Obviously, being able to obtain both the automation and the switchgear from Siemens makes it easier for us to handle the project."


On the technical side, the operation of the system in particular has improved considerably. Gabriel adds: "Among other things, we have replaced the mosaic panels in the substations with panels that have touch operation. This makes the work of our local