Track centreline distance

In railways the track centreline distance is the horizontal distance between the axes of adjacent tracks (track centres).  


Distance between main lines:

The minimum distance between two tracks is 3.50 m. This figure comes from the history of the railways. The previously defined half vehicle gauge was 1575 mm. If vehicles are standing on two parallel tracks laid at a distance of 3.50 m apart there remains a dimension of 350 mm between the loading gauges for protection and operating conditions. This intermediate space was sufficient for safe operation at low speeds and with hard wagon suspensions.

The current minimum distance between tracks in accordance with EBO is determined by adding half the width of the relevant loading gauges. The standard normal distances apart of tracks on the main line with radii r = ≥ 250 m are listed in one of the following tables.

Description of the track system

Distance apart

Existing track  

  3.50 m  

Extensive track renewal and track laying  

4.00 m  

S – Bahn (Ve ≤ 120 km/h)  

3.80 m  

- underground shelter adjacent to the tracks  

3.80 m  

- underground, shelter between the tracks  

4.70 m  

Upgraded lines (Ve ≤ 230 km/h)  

4.00 m  

New lines  

Ve≤ 300 km/h
ballast bed
ballastless track  

4.50 m
4.50 m  

Ve ≤ 200 km/h  

4.00 m  

Two-way working - signals between the tracks  

4.60 m  

Between track pair
and third track (without a space for masts)
            v = ≤ 160 km/h
160 ≤   v = ≤ 200 km/h
            v = ≤ 300 km/h  

5.80 m
6.80 m
8.00 m  

Radius increase with a radius ≤ 250 m

250  0
225  55
200  120
180  180
170  215
150  305
100  1100

Distance between tracks in stations:

The distance between tracks in stations shall be at least 4.50 m. If there are considerable extra costs in providing this distance apart direct lines through the station may have the same distance apart as the main lines. Some important track distances apart are shown in the next table.  

Description of the track system

Distance apart

Minimum distance  

4.00 m  

Minimum distance apart for new tracks  

4.50 m  

Signals between the tracks  

4.75 m  

Shunting paths between the tracks
 - between main lines
 v ≤ 160 km/h
 v ≥ 160 km/h on one track
 v ≥ 160 km/h on two tracks
 - between branch lines  


5.80 m
6.30 m
6.80 m
4.75 m  


It should be noted that in case of electric traction the space required for the catenary masts must be kept free. As a rule, individual support points are provided; thus, there are no masts between the tracks in double-tracked lines. 



Track spacing for tracks with superelevation:

The track spacing e is measured as the distance apart of the track centres (track axis) parallel to the rail heads concerned. The surveying of the distance apart of the tracks refers to the horizontal distance e h. In tangent track, where the rails are laid without superelevation, track spacing and peg out dimension are identical. If the axes of the tracks in the curve are at the same height then the peg out dimension e h is greater than the distance between the tracks e, if the axes are on an inclined plane, the peg out dimension e h is smaller than the distance between the tracks e.



Distances to engineering structures:

The horizontal distance between the track axis and engineering structures (e.g. bridge structures, support and noise protection walls) is determined by the danger zone and the safety space. The danger zone for ≤ 160 km/h is 2.50 m and for 160 ≤ v ≤ 300 km/h, 3.00 m. These distances apply to a superelevation of u = 20 mm. For larger superelevations the distances should be increased and this increase can be calculated. The safety space is a uniform 0.80 m and should be kept free up to a height of 2.20 m.

The space to be kept clear under overhead structures is determined by the clearance height and the width. The clear height refers to the distance between the top of the rails and bottom edge of the building ceiling.



The distance from
 the track axis  

Safety space

Minimum clear width  

            V ≤ 160 km/h  

3.30 m  

0.80 m  

10.60 m  

  160 ≤ v ≤ 200 km/h  

3.80 m  

0.80 m  

11.60 m  

  200 ≤ v ≤ 300 km/h  

4.30 m  

0.80 m  

12.50 m  

You can find suitable specialist literature to the topic here:

Infrastructure Projects 2018

Infrastructure Projects 2018

How can we remove and rebuild rail infrastructure faster and better? - That's what the more than 30 papers in this book are about. Levers for faster and better implementation of projects are the acceleration and simplification of approval procedures as well as lean concepts in the construction industry, the introduction of the BIM method and partnership building. Using the example of the metropolitan areas of Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, this book outlines which challenges population growth and disproportionately increasing economic performance mean for the transport infrastructure and how the transport networks can be made future-proof.

The Basic Principles of Mechanised Track Maintenance

The Basic Principles of Mechanised Track Maintenance

This book is dedicated to the many people involved in the day to day planning and performance of track maintenance activities. Providing a practical approach to everyday challenges in mechanised track maintenance, it is not just intended as a theoretical approach to the track system. 
Railways aim at transporting people and freight safely, rapidly, regularly, comfortably and on time from one place to another. This book is directed to track infrastructure departments contributing to the above objective by ensuring the track infrastructure’s reliability, availability, maintainability and safety – denoted by the acronym RAMS. Regular, effective and affordable track maintenance enable RAMS to be achieved.