Route class

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The line class is a classification of railway lines defined in the European standard EN 15528 . It defines the maximum permissible axle load (RSL) and the permissible load per unit length of a route or a route section. The limiting factor for the axle load is the load-bearing capacity of the superstructure and substructure ; the load per unit of length is mainly determined by the load capacity of bridges.


The route classes are indicated with the capital letters A to G to indicate the axle load and partially divided with digits to indicate the load per meter.

Route class Axle load Meter load comment
A. 16.0 t 5.0 t / m
B1 18.0 t 5.0 t / m
B2 18.0 t 6.4 t / m
C2 20.0 t 6.4 t / m
C3 20.0 t 7.2 t / m
C4 20.0 t 8.0 t / m
CE 20.0 t 8.0 t / m national expansion of route class C4 in Germany: 20 t axle load for six-axle wagons
CM2 21.0 t 6.4 t / m national route class in Germany
CM3 21.0 t 7.2 t / m national route class in Germany
CM4 21.0 t 8.0 t / m national route class in Germany
D2 22.5 t 6.4 t / m
D3 22.5 t 7.2 t / m
D4 22.5 t 8.0 t / m Standard for new and upgraded routes
E4 25.0 t 8.0 t / m
E5 25.0 t 8.8 t / m
F. 27.5 t currently only optional in EN 15528
G 30.0 t currently only optional in EN 15528
Six-axle ore wagon which, according to the labeling, is allowed to drive on route class CE with a weight of 84.5 t and on other C routes only with 60.5 t

C4 / CE: The route category CE differs from C4 in the arrangement of the axle loads; six-axle wagons with an axle load of 20.0 t can be driven on here. The route classes CM2, CM3 and CM 4 are national extensions of the route classes C2, C3 and CE introduced by DB Netz AG , which allow an axle load of 21 t. The other route classes are route classes in accordance with EN 15528, whereby route class D4 in Germany can also be used by six-axle wagons with an axle load of 20 t. The operational restrictions for six-axle wagons, which make the introduction of the CE route class necessary in Germany, are national regulations. This form of restriction does not exist internationally.


Practically all major routes in Europe are class D4, branch routes are mostly one of the various C-classes. A and B, on the other hand, hardly play a role anymore.

The higher route categories in Europe are largely only of a theoretical nature - practically all routes designed for larger loads are operated as permanent exceptions according to the rules of an exceptional shipment . In areas with heavy industry in particular, the main tracks are often designed for larger axle loads, but not the station sidings. Only in Sweden are there already several routes that are officially approved for route class E. Probably the best known - the Luleå – Narvik railway line - is used by LKAB Malmtrafik as scheduled with ore trains with a maximum load of 30 tons.

Outside Europe, there are heavy haul rail transport routes that are known under the English term Heavy Haul and that can be driven on with significantly higher axle loads. The current world record holder is the Fortescue cable car in Australia with a permissible axle load of 40 t.


In the case of locomotives, the aim is to achieve the greatest possible axle load for optimum traction, so that, for example, in modern four-axle locomotives, the 80 t maximum permitted for class C is a lightweight.

In the case of freight wagons, the possible payload depends on the route class, the load capacity of the wagon, the travel speed and its own weight. The load limit grid is used for this purpose . Here, too, class E is rarely written (in addition to many wagons from the Swedish Green Cargo , some wagons from Rail Cargo Austria also have an indication for class E) and never higher classes. On the other hand, many vehicles are designed for significantly larger axle loads than are specified - for example, the six-axle ore wagons of the DB type Faals 151 are designed for a axle load of 25 t, which, with a length of 15 m, would even overwhelm the E5 class. The permissible load weight is instead marked with the symbol for load capacity.

Track classification

Upper class Minimal track equipment
Minimum rail profile ( weight per meter ) Threshold distance [mm]
3 S13, S40 (36 kg m −1 ) 750
American (40 kg m −1 ) 750
4a AL16, G33, S41 (41 kg m −1 ) 750
AL16, G33, S41 (41 kg m −1 ) 650
S12, S33 (46 kg m −1 ) 750
S12, S33 (46 kg m −1 ) 700
S12, S33 (46 kg m −1 ) 670
S12, S33 (46 kg m −1 ) 620
4b U33 (46 kg m −1 ) 600
5 U50, U55, UIC 60 (≥ 50 kg m −1 ) 600

Individual evidence

  1. Directive 457.0301 p. 1 of DB Netz AG, as of April 1, 2000
  2. Appendix 11 to the AVV, sign 2.5