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Stuttgart: An ICE train departs from the main train station

Photo: Marijan Murat / dpa

From December, Deutsche Bahn's new timetable will include a larger service – especially between Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia and between Berlin and Munich. The bad news is that the chronic unreliability of long-distance transport will not change for the time being. In addition, rail customers will have to prepare for higher prices.

The most important timetable changes in detail

  • With an additional, two-hourly ICE line between Berlin and Cologne via Wuppertal, a long-distance train will run every 30 minutes between the capital and Hanover in the future. According to Deutsche Bahn, the number of seats available on the entire route will increase by 20 to 25 percent. Due to the extra connection, the train division in Hamm on the line is only half as often necessary. In addition, this will affect the new ICE 4 trains more frequently, where there will be fewer coupling problems than with the older ICE 2.

  • From December, there will also be a half-hourly service between Berlin and Munich. In the future, the particularly fast Sprinter connection will be operated once an hour. Three times a day in each direction, the Sprinter also runs non-stop between Nuremberg and Berlin. This reduces the travel time on the entire route to 3 hours and 45 minutes.

  • Between Berlin and Paris as well as between Berlin and Brussels, the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) want to establish a night train. Initially, he will be on the road three times a week, then daily from October 2024.

  • There will also be new services between Leipzig, Jena and Nuremberg. In the future, five IC connections per day will be offered through the Saale Valley, it said. So far, there has only been one trip at a time. For the first time, Magdeburg will have a connection to Hamburg as well as more direct connections to Berlin and Rostock.

The timetable is valid from 10 December, ticket sales start on 11 October – also for journeys during the Christmas season.

Higher prices expected

However, the timetable change in December will not only bring more services, but also higher prices for long-distance transport for passengers. "Of course, we also have to think about our fares in view of the general price development," said Michael Peterson, the railway board member responsible for long-distance transport, to the German Press Agency. "We will inform passengers about this in good time in October."

The punctuality rate of the railway will not improve with the new timetable. The main reason remains the overloaded and outdated rail network and the numerous construction sites that are necessary as a result, which further slow down rail traffic.

"Even in 2024, we will have to ask our passengers for a little more patience than they and we would like," Peterson said. "But we will start the general renovation of the rail network next year." This means step-by-step improvements on the overloaded infrastructure. However, higher reliability can only be expected from 2025 onwards.

In the coming year, the modernization of the so-called Ried Railway between Frankfurt and Mannheim will start the general renovation of dozens of rail corridors by 2030. For this purpose, the sections will be closed and renewed for about half a year. The Ried Railway is one of the busiest routes in Europe. Deutsche Bahn expects noticeable improvements in reliability after completion of the construction work there.