GERMAN Railway and national airline Lufthansa plan to step up their co-operation next March by launching rail services to replace loss-making short-distance flights between Stuttgart and Frankfurt.

Check-in will take place at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof up to 30min before departure of Frankfurt-bound ICE services. Passengers will be able to check their luggage through to their final destination and to collect it at Stuttgart on their return - this will require a customs clearance office to be established in Stuttgart. Passengers will be issued with a single document covering travel on the rail and air legs of their journey.

Some modifications to ICE1 trainsets will be needed to accommodate checked baggage in secure conditions; two passenger compartments are likely to be converted for this purpose.

Pending the results of the pilot scheme, Lufthansa will maintain its six daily flights between the two cities. If successful, the concept will be extended to replace planes with trains between Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, K