In the wake of the much publicised recent tunnel fires emergency precautions on Germany’s new ICE Cologne-Frankfurt high speed rail line will include 24 building materials hoists specially adapted to carry firefighting equipment to track level.

More than 30km of the new route is underground. Scheduled to open in mid 2002 it has 30 deep tunnels. The hoists, being supplied by Alimak, form part of elaborate safety precautions which follow on from the disastrous fires in the Channel Tunnel, and in Alpine road and funicular railway tunnels.

On the Cologne-Frankfurt railway emergency escape shafts have been excavated at regular intervals so that passengers can climb stairs to the surface some 8m to 30m above rail level. Fireproof air locks are being built into the short adits between the running tunnels and the pit bottoms so that the shafts will not become chimneys in the event of a train catching alight.

The hoists are needed so that equipment weighing up to 300kg can be quickly and easily brought into the tunnels in an emergency. Two major constraints had to be overcome before Alimak won the hoist supply contract from client DB Project in December 2000. Hoists had to be small enough to fit within the 1.7m wide by 2.6m long space in the stair lined shafts and they had to be adapted to run from a firefighting crew’s emergency generator plugged in at the surface.

Fortunately Alimak had already developed a specially narrow, 1m cage for an Australian client. This model forms the basis of the Type M300 rack and pinion hoists to DB Projet.