Branch line

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Branch lines are railway lines of subordinate (" secondary ") importance, which, in contrast to the main line, have simplifications in construction and operation.


Local railway Ober-Grafendorf – Gresten in Austria: tight curve radii and the narrow-gauge design enabled better adaptation to the terrain and thus lower construction costs

Since the construction and operation of the main lines was not always covered by the income, the search for simplifications began. As early as 1865, the technicians' assembly of the Association of German Railway Administrations had drawn up principles for secondary railways. These were put into effect on July 1, 1878 with the railroad regulations for German railways of minor importance as a Reich law.

The most important changes to the previous main line operations were:

  • Elimination of railway surveillance
  • Check the track system once a day (instead of three times a day)
  • Fewer brakes to be occupied
  • No rail fences
  • Elimination of barrier systems at level crossings
  • Elimination of signals at train stations
  • More generous wear limits on the wheel tires of the cars and locomotives

With comparable legal frameworks that regulated financing, construction and operation, the foundations for the development of the area through inexpensive rail networks were created in several European countries from the end of the 19th century. In Austria this was the originally time-limited law of May 25, 1880, concerning concessions and privileges for local railways , the validity of which was extended several times. In addition, the Crown Lands were allowed to create their own regional railway organizations, such as the Lower Austrian regional railways and the Styrian regional railways , which still exist today . In the United Kingdom , the Light Railways Act was passed in 1896 , regulating the construction and operation of simplified railways.

Legal basis


Not technically secured level crossing on a branch line (1952)

There is a definition of main and branch lines in the Railway Construction and Operating Regulations (EBO). Section 1 (2) reads:

“The routes are divided into main and secondary lines according to their importance. Make the decision about which routes are main lines and which are branch lines
  1. for the federal railways the respective company,
  2. for railways that are not part of the federal railways network ( non- federal railways ), the competent state authority . "

Distinguishing features are mentioned in the following paragraphs of the EBO:

Branch lines basically stand for a simpler construction or for a simpler operation. Most branch lines are single-track. The maximum speed for passenger trains is 100 km / h, for freight trains and generally for most routes 80 km / h or less. Even stricter standards applied here at the Deutsche Reichsbahn . The maximum speed on branch lines was 60 km / h; it was allowed to be 80 km / h if the train protection systems corresponded to those of the main railways at more than 60 km / h.


Section 4 of the Railway Act of 1957 defines branch lines as “railways intended for public transport, provided they are not main lines or trams ”.


In Swiss law, there is no longer a distinction between main and branch lines. With the revision of the Railway Act of 2009, the previous distinction was abandoned. Before that, according to Article 2 of the Railway Act:

  1. The Swiss railway network consists of main and branch lines. The main railways are the standard gauge railways that serve domestic and international through traffic; Branch lines are the standard-gauge railways, which mainly serve only the traffic in a certain area of ​​the country, furthermore all narrow-gauge railways , rack railways , trams and funicular railways .
  2. The concession determines whether a standard-gauge railway is a branch line; the Federal Council decides where the license is silent . It also designates those standard-gauge lines of the Swiss Federal Railways , which belong to the branch lines.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic , the classification of the railway network differentiates between state railways ("celostátní dráhu") and individual regional railways ("regionální dráhy"). By decree of the Czech government of December 20, 1995, 128 railway lines in the Czech Republic were declared regional railways.

See also


  • Walter Ledig, Ferdinand Ulbricht: The secondary railways of the Kingdom of Saxony , Berlin 1887 ( digitized version )
  • Th. Sorge: The meaning and application of the secondary railways for the Kingdom of Saxony , Dresden 1875 ( digitized version )
  • Wolf L. Temming: Branch lines: an epoch of German railway history , Transpress, Berlin 1993
  • Horst Weigelt: Bavarian Railways: From the mule track to the intercity . Motorbuch Stuttgart, 1A 182 ISBN 3-87943-899-4 p. 215ff

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Reichsgesetzblatt No. 56/1880 for the kingdoms and states represented in the Reichsrathe - issued and sent on June 5, 1880
  2. ^ AS 2009 5597
  3. Decree of the Czech government of December 20, 1995