Explanation of terms - Glossary from A to Z
The third rail, also known as the conductor rail or electric rail, is used to supply power to an electric rail vehicle. Unlike the overhead contact line, it is not installed above the rail, but runs along the side of the rail track. Current collectors then transmit the current from the conductor rail to the electric rail vehicle. Regardless of whether it is a regional train or an ICE, a 3 rail can be used for any speed and any operating voltage.
The third rail is usually made of aluminum alloys with a stainless steel running surface to minimize wear. It has the advantage over the overhead line in that it is less expensive as well as more robust, as well as requires simpler installation.
However, the high-current rail with 1500V near the ground also brings dangers for people and animals in the track bed.