READY FOR this month's football world cup, German Railway inaugurated its upgraded route between the two Bavarian venues at Nürnberg and München on May 13.

DB Chief Executive Hartmut Mehdorn was joined for the celebrations by Federal Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, the Premier of Bayern Edmund Stoiber, local Transport Minister Erwin Huber and Interior Minister Günter Beckstein. After pressing a symbolic button at München, the VIPs travelled to Nürnberg in a pair of parallel-running ICEs, mirroring the launch of the Köln - Frankfurt line in 2002.

The 89 km Neubaustrecke from Nürnberg to Ingolstadt is the second route in Germany authorised for 300 km/h operation; like Köln - Frankfurt it parallels an existing motorway to minimise the environmental impact. It cuts the distance between the two cities from 199 to 171 km. Journey times have been reduced from 100min to 75min, and will come down to 60min in December. Further time savings come from eliminating the need for services to reverse in Nürnberg.

The route forms part of TEN Corridor I, linking Berlin, München and northern Italy. Journey times between Berlin and Leipzig have already been cut to around 1h by upgrading the existing line for 200 km/h, but Tiefensee said shortage of funds would prevent work on the new line between Erfurt and Nürnberg for a decade, with completion unlikely before 2017.

Two intermediate stations have been built on the Nürnberg - Ingolstadt line, at Kinding and Allersberg. From December 2006 these are to be served by the first 200 km/h regional trains in Germany.