ICE at Frankfurt airport (Photo: Deutsche Bahn/Volker Emersleben)

GERMANY: Deutsche Bahn introduced more limited-stop Sprinter ICE services on long-distance inter-city routes with the timetable change on December 12.

Sprinter-branded ICE services now operate on eight domestic routes, while a daily Frankfurt am Main – Paris service calling at Mannheim and Karlsruhe also carries the branding. Intended to appeal to business travellers, many of the Sprinter services are timed to depart early in the morning with return trips in the evening. This ensures a full day at the destination and offers a viable alternative to domestic flights.

Three Sprinters each way per day now link Bonn and Berlin with a single stop at Köln, providing a fastest Köln – Berlin timing of 3 h 55 min for the 580 km journey. DB says this is around 30 min faster than previous services.

Also new are two daily trips each way between Düsseldorf and München with intermediate calls only at Köln, Frankfurt Flughafen and Nürnberg. Fastest journey time between Köln and München is 3 h 55 min, again offering a 30 min time saving.

An early morning Sprinter calling only at Hannover and Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof links Hamburg and Frankfurt Flughafen in 3 h 44 min. There are now five Sprinter trains each way on the München – Berlin route, including a northbound departure at 19.56 which reaches the capital at 23.50.

Changes to the IC network include a new service linking Frankfurt am Main with Norddeich Mole via Siegen and Münster and a direct service from Koblenz and the Rhein-Ruhr area to Bremerhaven.

DB has introduced more ICE4 trainsets, notably on the München – Hamburg route via Stuttgart, Frankfurt Flughafen and Köln; these 13-car sets with 918 seats are branded XXL-ICE.

The timetable change also saw the withdrawal of the Metropolitan loco-hauled trainsets introduced in 1999 to offer a premium service on the Hamburg – Köln route. The Metropolitan name was dropped in 2004 and DB’s quasi-independent marketing subsidiary Metropolitan Express Train GmbH was wound up; the two seven-car push-pull formations were then integrated into DB’s ICE network. A final special trip on December 10 left Köln at 15.39 for Berlin with the leading trailer car bearing the original orange Metropolitan logo.