German Rail (Deutsche Bahn) is adding new high-speed services on
key routes within the country, working to bring the high-speed
Thalys trains from its western neighbors into Cologne, and
developing new and innovative on-board services for leisure and
business travelers alike.
Earlier this year, the rail company opened up the newest link in
its growing system of high-speed Inter City Express (ICE) trains
when work was completed on track improvements between Hamburg and
On the ICE high-speed lines, the new dedicated track permits
trains to travel at speeds of up to about 175 miles an hour. The
other ICE trains, which run on standard tracks, usually can't go
faster than about about 100 mph.
The new Hamburg-Berlin service cuts the rail journey between the
two cities from two hours and 45 minutes to about two hours and 15
minutes. The fast train is called Fliegender Hamburger, which
translates in English to the Flying Hamburger.
Other high-speed ICE lines currently in operation are between
Hannover and Wurzburg, and between Stuttgart and Mannheim. Regular
ICE services criss-cross the country, mostly in the western part of
Germany, although ICE trains operate now from Hannover to Berlin
and from Berlin to Dresden in the east.
The two-class ICE service offers a number of special comforts
and conveniences for passengers, such as an in-seat audio system
with headphones, offering three programmed audio channels and three
radio stations; on-board recycling of refuse; storage lockers for
hand luggage; on-board newspapers; restaurants and bistros;
baby-changing facilities, and telephones in first class.
As if that weren't enough, the rail company -- which was
privatized five years ago -- now is bringing on what it calls ICE 2
service, which adds even more passenger amenities as well as new
technology to make the trains themselves even quieter and
The ICE 2s, which are in operation now between Frankfurt and
Bremen, and between Cologne and Berlin, feature innovations like a
family compartment with space for strollers, a socket for
bottle-warmers and en-suite baby-changing facilities. Displays on
the outside of each car include information on train routes and
numbers, and an electronic display in each car shows the route,
speed, next stop and the time. Individual video screens are on all
first class seats.
New services, some of them aimed at the business traveler, are
being tested on selected routes as well, and passenger reactions
are being evaluated to determine whether they will be rolled out
In one key construction project for the ICE network, German Rail
is building a new ICE passenger terminal at the Hannover
fairgrounds, which will serve as the primary venue for Expo 2000
Hannover, a world's fair that is expected to draw millions of
visitors during the summer of the millennium year.
The new train station being built at the fairgrounds will be
able to accommodate high-speed ICE trains that will be running into
the city for the Expo.
Meanwhile, the rail company is building another ICE station
specifically for high-speed trains at Frankfurt airport, which has
been served by a regular rail station since 1972.
The new high-speed ICE terminal, due to open in the spring of
1999, is expected to attract 25,000 to 30,000 passengers a day, and
ultimately will shift much of the airport's short-haul traffic from
planes onto trains.
High-speed rail services are not only expanding within Germany;
they're coming into the country from other parts of Europe as
The most notable development in 1998 will be the extension of
the high-speed red Thalys trains into Cologne from their existing
network, which currently runs from Paris to Amsterdam via
The Thalys system, with trains running up to 180 mph, is a joint
venture of the French, German, Dutch and Belgian railways.
When Cologne is first added to the network (it was scheduled to
start this week), the trains will not be able to run at top speed
all the way to Cologne; that will require more track improvements.
But it will mean an immediate reduction in the Paris-Cologne travel
time from five hours and 15 minutes to four hours and 2
* * *
Rail Pass Availability
DER Travel Services in Rosemont, Ill., is the official sales
agent for German Rail in the U.S. For point-to-point ticketing and
reservations, call (800) 337-8724; for rail passes, (800)
DER has a variety of German Railpasses, including first and
second class flexipasses, for five, 10 or 15 days of travel in one
month; second-class youth passes (under 26 years of age) for the
same periods of travel; twinpasses, for two adults traveling
together, also for five, 10 or 15 days of travel in a month; and
railpass/drive combinations, with four or five days of rail travel
and three days of car rental. German Railpass holders can also buy
tickets at special rates to Vienna, Copenhagen or Prague.
Meanwhile, Rail Europe this year started offering a
single-country Rail 'n' Drive pass for Germany in cooperation with
Hertz. Rail Europe's German Rail 'n' Drive Pass is good for four or
five days of first or second class rail travel and three days' use
of a Hertz car with unlimited mileage.
Contact Rail Europe at (800) 848-7245, or on the Internet at
In addition, rail travel within Germany and other countries is
covered by the Eurailpass or Europass, which can be obtained from
either DER or Rail Europe.