Putting a system in place for plans

Thinkproject CDE IFRASTRUCTURE paves the way for digital approval and aids construction of Munich’s suburban rail network

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When the first trunk line was built for Munich’s suburban rail network in preparation for the 1972 Olympic Games, the plan was for the route to shuttle around 125,000 passengers per day from Munich East to Laim in the west of the city. Today, around 840,000 people use the line every day.

In other words, it has long since reached the point of overload. DB Netz AG and its project partners have been planning a second trunk line since 2001. This is an express “S-Bahn” line approximately 10 kilometers in length going from the east of Munich to the west and encompassing three new underground stations – Munich East, Marienhof and Central Station – along with two overground transfer stations: Leuchtenbergring in the east and Laim in the west. Construction officially started on 5 April 2017.

A tunnel stretching around 7 kilometers is being constructed to link Munich East with Central Station. Subterranean Munich is already a fairly busy space: in addition to infrastructure channels and the first trunk line, it is home to the city’s underground network.

This is why the second trunk line has to be built at a depth of approximately 40 meters, below all existing installations, tunnels and train stations, leading to a host of additional tasks for those planning and building the line. It is essential to ensure the safety and stability of all the installations and buildings located above the new line.

It is also important to keep groundwater out of the construction site. This is far from simple, given the site’s proximity to the river Isar, which makes the water pressure level near the tunnel extremely high. Finally, the new train stations are being built in Munich’s downtown area, where space for large-scale excavation work and building site infrastructure is very limited.

  • “The project partners gradually came up with new ideas for workflows, and we put them into practice together with our colleagues at Thinkproject.”
    Michael Ditandy
    Project Manager, Major Project 2nd S-Bahn Main Line Munich
  • “Thinkproject’s log management solution is superb at helping me to oversee and organise various tasks, decisions and sources of information. This tool documents everything agreed on in the numerous meetings on an ongoing basis.”
    Stefan Gödeke
    Managing Director of baustein GmbH, Implementation Hub for the Second S-Bahn Trunk Line
Strict approval processes


Approval processes for infrastructure projects are highly complex due to the fact that any errors can have serious consequences.

Up to now, three inspection bodies based in Frankfurt, Erfurt and Leipzig have been responsible for monitoring each original plan and using stamps and signatures to affirm that all documents are in line with requirements.

Michael Ditandy, Head of Project Management and the Overground East Construction Stage, had the following to say about the process before it was digitalised: “Sending plans from one inspection body to another by post took far too long. In periods when time was of the essence, we had our interns drive all over Germany once a month to get the approval stamps we needed.” It hasn’t been that long since this setup was abandoned: it was not until 2018 that digital approvals for control and signalling technology were permitted.

Communication: the precursor to approval

Before the approval authority issues any approvals, the various departments and specialist fields must be coordinated. The fact is that structural engineers, electrical engineers, ventilation & wastewater specialists, designers, civil engineers and other professional planners all draw up their own plans based on the requirements stated by the awarding authority and the architects.

Projects of this scale can often lead to a butting of heads, which is why issues must be identified early on and resolved. Wastewater pipes should not be installed in the track bed, power lines mustn’t hang freely, trains can’t pass through beams or pillars, and so on. A CDE is designed to help coordinate plans and identify issues to be resolved.

“When you consider the whole network, a 7-kilometre tunnel seems very short. And it’s obvious that all those working on the tunnel need to communicate with each other,” says Ditandy. “In practice, however, it’s easier said than done. By the time we finish the project, it’s likely that we’ll have a quarter of a million plans.”

Drawing management

Ditandy had encountered Thinkproject– used as a data platform by DB Netz AG – when working on the construction of the Stuttgart–Ulm line and appreciated its strengths. He knew first hand how this CDE improves communication among project members. With its planning management, planning coordination and ordinance management – Thinkproject had already proven itself as the ideal digital interface for all involved.

Start simple

For the CDE to be able to take on its role as a central interface and coordination platform, it is important to define workflows. Those at DB Netz AG had hoped that the workflows they had employed in Stuttgart could simply be transferred to the new project. After all, the goal was essentially the same: to build a railway tunnel and a station. However, things didn’t work out like that.

“There’s just no way to have an overview of the complex processes, related factors, official requirements and mutual dependencies at the beginning of such a project” Ditandy now knows. This is why it is prudent to start with simple, clearly identifiable procedures, such as the approval process: from the planner to the surveyor to the planning coordinator to the approval authority and back again if changes have to be made.

The rise of the smartphone

Data management and communication are key challenges for any large-scale project.

For DB Netz AG, Thinkproject CDE INFRASTRUCTURE had proven its ability to overcome these challenges. Ditandy is keen for smartphones to play an increasingly important role in future.

While plans and inspection observations can be accessed on the job site via smartphone today, it is not yet possible to use one to initiate workflow-based processes. The project team is looking at using smartphones to document ordinance from the verification process and when defects have been eliminated at the building site.


The software’s benefits – not least intelligent data management and better communication between all parties – are also coming to the fore in the planning and construction of the second trunk line for Munich’s suburban rail network.

This tool allows professional planners and inspection bodies to access plans from any location, making work easier to coordinate and allowing workflows to be established that ensure nothing is overlooked. Both the data environment and individual workflows can evolve organically, meaning that they meet the communication and information requirements of the user at all times.

A “digital stamp”

In actual fact, “digital stamps” are more secure than a real-life rubber stamp – though this is only the case if the software solutions employed are able to guarantee this level of security.

Thinkproject Document & Communication Management

Thinkproject is made up of a host of modules that can be combined as the circumstances require. One such module allows for digital approval to be given in a secure way.

The CDE INFRASTRUCTURE solution used by DB Netz AG comprises high-performance features employed during infrastructure construction due to their ability to define and automate customer-specific processes.

Above all, this cuts down on the time required to complete verification procedures, with it often proving possible to save several weeks on plan durations.

Support from the Thinkproject team

It quickly became apparent that the initial workflows, while useful, were lacking in some areas. The project members had to – and were keen to – hone in on the details. This is another of the software’s strengths, as it allows a sequence of activities to be set for the construction site. For example, this sequence could involve a foundation slab being poured only once the substrate has been sufficiently compacted. The CDE helps to coordinate these steps. The same applies when it comes to using cranes and construction equipment, which need to be sent to the building site at the exact moment they are required. After all, machine idle times can have a major impact on a budget.

For Ditandy and his team, it was especially important in the project’s first year to be able to rely on competent partners whom they could contact about Thinkproject. Even when the users developed ideas and expressed wishes that couldn’t be put into practice by the software straight away, Thinkproject was always there to listen.

Log management for enhanced efficiency


Another solution was brought into play for the Munich trunk line: 530 users are taking advantage of Document & Communication log management to process logs and responsibilities efficiently. At present, 6,500 tasks are stored in the CDE in 120 different series of recurring appointments. Up to 50 appointments are managed within each series. A practical guide and comprehensive training documents make the tool easier to use. Meanwhile, the configuration options regarding rights, filters and templates offer security, and clear process definitions and organisational specifications increase efficiency.

The right key for complex projects

Thinkproject solutions have their place at DB Netz AG: they help make projects more manageable despite their high level of complexity. The individual modules can be combined like pieces of a puzzle, creating project-specific holistic solutions that guarantee security and effectiveness. Because it is possible to scale the solution, the processes can be optimised on an ongoing basis. Michael Ditandy summaries: “Any time we fulfilled a wish or met a requirement, there was always another idea that we were ready to turn into a reality. This will continue to be the case as we move forward.”

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