Berlin (dpa) - Despite falling passenger numbers in the Corona crisis, Deutsche Bahn continues to expand its long-distance fleet. She ordered 30 new ICE 3 trains from the Munich-based technology group Siemens for one billion euros.

The first vehicles should be on the road by the end of 2022 - initially on the Cologne-Rhine / Main route from the Rhineland to Munich, as both companies announced. In addition, Deutsche Bahn is securing an option for 60 additional trains in order to be able to react flexibly to the development of further demand in the coming years.

Top speeds of 320 kilometers per hour

The vehicles now ordered are the older ICE 3 series, which runs on the Velaro platform from Siemens and has been on the road in Germany for many years. However, it achieves top speeds of 320 kilometers per hour on the planned operational routes and is therefore significantly faster than the new ICE 4. In addition, there will be some innovations: On the one hand, all trains will be equipped with bicycle parking spaces, which so far has only been the case with the ICE 4 is.

On the other hand, frequency-transmissive panes are used for the first time, which are intended to improve mobile radio reception on the train and make the transmission of mobile radio signals via so-called repeaters unnecessary. "With the new ICE, we are relying on a tried and tested vehicle platform," said railway chief Richard Lutz at the presentation. "This makes it possible to process this purchase at an absolute record pace."

With the announcement, the federally owned group is once again bringing to the fore several issues that had lost their explosiveness during the Corona crisis.

Firstly, the number of passengers. Due to the reduction in value added tax agreed in the climate package and the associated cheaper tickets, Deutsche Bahn had assumed before the crisis that around five million additional long-distance passengers would be added in the future. The federal government's goal is to double the number of customers on the railways by 2030. The long-distance train fleet was already overloaded with the existing demand before the crisis. The result was a delay problem.

Therefore, more trains should be added. In addition to the 137 new ICE 4 trains ordered years ago, of which around 50 have already been delivered, the Group bought 17 used Stadler double-deck long-distance trains from the Western Railway at the end of last year. The Supervisory Board also approved the purchase of the 30 high-speed trains now ordered from Siemens.

Slump in passenger numbers in the Corona crisis

But in the Corona crisis, passenger numbers dropped dramatically - and are still recovering only slowly. Lutz emphasized that the pre-crisis level can only be expected after a vaccine is available. "We'll adjust to this time after Corona," he said. The Group is therefore sticking to its investments. By 2026, Deutsche Bahn plans to increase the number of seats it offers on ICE trains from around 158,000 currently to 220,000.

Another issue that played a role is the still inadequate expansion of mobile telephones along the high-speed lines. The frequency-permeable discs have several advantages: They are less maintenance-prone than the repeaters. And according to Bahn, they do not have to be converted or retrofitted - for example, when the new 5G standard will soon be expanded.

However, the federal government continues to see the mobile operators as responsible for the signal itself. "At the mobile phone summit, we also set very specific expansion targets with the providers, even with sensitive requirements if the coverage requirements are not met," said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU). The provider Telefónica is currently facing a fine because it still has not built all the required LTE locations.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200715-99-802949 / 3

Communication from the web

Information about the Velaro platform