INTRO: German Railway has seized on the opportunities presented by this year’s World Cup to promote its services and win more passengers to rail. The north-south tunnel in Berlin and the high speed line from Nürnberg to Ingolstadt open this month in good time to help handle the expected crowds of football fans
HAD YOU been in Frankfurt on April 9, you would have had the opportunity to combine a touch of football history with railway nostalgia. DB was offering short trips in the very train that brought the victorious German team home from the World Cup championship in Bern in 1954.
The historic four-car VT08 diesel set has been given a starring role in an ambitious programme to promote rail travel during this year’s World Cup. DB is one of six national sponsors and it expects to reap rich dividends - not least in terms of publicity when the championship begins on June 9.
Since the end of last year DB has been steadily ramping up its profile, staging events to emphasise its role as the FIFA official carrier. Conscious of the ’green goal’ to make the event climate-neutral, DB is urging fans to travel to and from the 64 games in 12 cities by public transport.
Special fares have been heavily promoted. These include a railcard promotion which sees the World Champion BahnCard 25 retailing for just €19; holders are entitled to 25% off the price of rail tickets and to free use of public transport in more than 80 towns and cities. For every round where the German team moves closer to the final, an extra month of validity is added to the card. So if the German players finish as world champions, card holders will benefit right through to December 31.
Other promotions include the Weltmeister Ticket which was available to holders of tickets to the games until a cut-off date of March 31. This was priced at €54, €74 and €90 to commemorate the German team’s victories in Bern in 1954, München in 1974 and Roma in 1990. The €54 ticket is valid for travel to and from games over a distance of 200 km, the €74 ticket for trips up to 350 km, and the €90 ticket for a round trip anywhere on the DB network. A Weltmeister Pass priced at €349 and €549 entitles the holder to travel on any train between June 7 and July 11.
An agreement between the Association of German Transport Undertakings and the World Cup organisers means that entry tickets for the games can also be used for travel on local trains, trams and buses on the day of the match in the cities concerned.
Around 10 million fans are expected to arrive in Germany, of which 3.2 million already hold match tickets. DB estimates that half of these will use its services to travel to and from the matches - there are stations directly serving eight of the 12 stadia.
During the championship DB plans to run about 250 extra long-distance trains. More than 100 ICE and IC services will have extra coaches, and the frequency of S-Bahn and regional services is being stepped up. In many locations operating hours are being extended to cater for fans travelling to and from evening games,. When the final is held in Berlin on July 9, the S-Bahn will run around-the-clock. Numerous specials have been chartered, with Brazilian fans riding in an ICE and Mexican supporters chartering their own services.
DB has recognised that many fans will be unfamiliar with rail travel and is making considerable efforts to inform supporters.
Multi-lingual announcements will be widely used on trains, with at least English and German used. Ticket offices at main stations will have English-speaking staff available, and internet ticket sales facilities are being provi-ded in several languages. Welcome desks are being established at main stations, and to help keep passengers up to date with scores, results will be announced on long-distance trains.
Parallel to the ticket sales and marketing programme, DB is completing two major projects in time for the Cup. One is the 89 km Neubaustrecke from Nürnberg to Ingolstadt which opens on May 28. Together with upgrading between Nürnberg and München, this 300 km/h line will save up to 45min on trips between southern Germany and Berlin.
The second project will have a wider impact. This is the €10bn scheme to rebuild Berlin’s rail network which culminates on May 28 with the opening of a four-track north-south tunnel across the city. Together with reconstruction of junctions and stations in and around the capital, this paves the way for a radical restructuring of long-distance and regional services with the summer timetable. Significant cuts in journey times will apply on several routes, with Hamburg - Leipzig cut by 40min to give a journey time of 1h 10min.
Centrepiece of the project is the Hauptbahnhof built on the site of the former Lehrter station. Here the new north-south route meets the east-west Stadtbahn to create what DB describes as ’Europe’s largest interchange’. Long-distance services routed through the north-south tunnel include those from Hamburg to Leipzig, München and Dresden and from Stralsund to Erfurt.
Long-distance trains from K