High-speed rail in Germany

High-speed rail in Germany

3rd Generation ICE, the newest high-speed trains in Germany

Construction of the first German high-speed rail lines began shortly after that of the French TGVs (lignes à grande vitesse, high speed lines). However, legal battles caused significant delays, so that the German InterCityExpress (ICE) trains were deployed ten years after the TGV network was established.


The first regularly scheduled ICE trains ran on 2 June 1991 from Hamburg-Altona via Hamburg Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf and Stuttgart Hbf toward München Hbf on the new ICE line 6. The ICE network is more tightly integrated with pre-existing lines and trains as a result of the different settlement structure in Germany , which has almost twice the population density of France. ICE trains reached destinations in Austria and Switzerland soon after they entered service, taking advantage of the same voltage used in these countries. Starting in 2000, multisystem third-generation ICE trains entered the Netherlands and Belgium. The third generation of the ICE has a service speed of 330 km/h (205 mph) and has reached speeds up to 363 km/h (226 mph).

Admission of ICE trains onto French LGVs was applied for in 2001, and trial runs completed in 2005. Since June 2007, ICEs service Paris from Frankfurt and Saarbrücken via the LGV Est.

Unlike the TGV in France or Shinkansen in Japan, Germany has experienced a fatal accident on a high-speed service. In the Eschede train disaster of 1998, a first generation ICE experienced catastrophic wheel failure while travelling at 200 km/h near Eschede, following complaints of excessive vibration. Of 287 passengers aboard, 101 people died and 80 were injured in the resulting derailment. The accident was the result of faulty wheel design and, following the crash, all ICE wheels of that design were redesigned and replaced.

Thalys trains began running in Germany in 1997, from the Belgian HSL 3 to Aachen and Cologne using the Cologne–Aachen high-speed railway. TGV POS trains began running in Germany in 2007, to Karlsruhe and Stuttgart using the Mannheim–Stuttgart and Karlsruhe–Basel high-speed lines.


Germany has developed the Transrapid, a magnetic levitation train system. The Transrapid reaches speeds up to 550 km/h (340 mph). A test track with a total length of 31.5 km (19.6 mi) is operating in Emsland. In China, Shanghai Maglev Train, a Transrapid technology based maglev built in collaboration with Siemens, Germany, has been operational since March 2004.

List of high-speed lines

ICE network
  • red: High-speed lines for 300 km/h (186 mph)
  • orange: High-speed lines for 250 to 280  km/h (156 to 175 mph)
  • blue: Upgraded lines, 200 to 230 km/h (125 to 145 mph)
  • grey: Other lines, max. 160 km/h (100 mph)

Upgraded Line

Partially New Line

Part of these routes are new constructions that run along or close to the existing, or previous, route:

Fully New Line

Completely new construction projects:

Lines not yet completed

Travel times

DB Intercity-Express travel times between major stations1, 2
Amsterdam Berlin Brussels Cologne Cop'hagen Düsseldorf Frankfurt Hamburg London Munich Paris Vienna Zürich
Amsterdam Centraal N/A 1h 54min4 2h 39min N/A 2h 12min 3h 56min N/A 3h 50min4 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Berlin Hbf 5 N/A N/A 4h 20min 6h 45min 4h 15min 3h 37min3 1h 36min N/A 5h 52min N/A N/A N/A
Brussels Midi/Zuid 1h 54min4 N/A 1h 52min N/A N/A 3h 06min N/A 1h 55min4 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cologne/Köln Hbf 5 2h 39min 4h 20min 1h 52min N/A 21min 1h 02min 3h 29min3 3h 40min4 4h 38min 3h 15min 9h 29min N/A
Copenhagen/København H N/A 6h 45min N/A N/A N/A 9h 13min 4h 43min N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Düsseldorf Hbf 2h 12min 4h 15min N/A 21min N/A 1h 27min 3h 35min N/A 4h 44min N/A N/A N/A
Frankfurt (Main) Hbf 5 3h 56min 3h 37min3 3h 06min 1h 02min 9h 13min 1h 27min 3h 52min 4h 40min4 3h 11min 3h 48min 7h 01min 3h 55min
Hamburg Hbf 5 N/A 1h 36min N/A 3h 29min3 4h 43min 3h 35min 3h 19min3 N/A 5h 46min N/A N/A 7h 59min
London St. Pancras 3h 50min4 N/A 1h 55min4 3h 40min4 N/A N/A 4h 40min4 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
München Hbf N/A 5h 50min N/A 4h 38min N/A 4h 44min 3h 11min 5h 41min N/A N/A 4h 13min N/A
Paris Gare du Nord / Gare de l'Est N/A N/A N/A 3h 15min N/A N/A 3h 48min N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Vienna/Wien Westbf N/A N/A N/A 9h 29min N/A N/A 7h 01min N/A N/A 4h 13min N/A N/A
Zürich HB N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3h 55min 7h 48min N/A N/A N/A N/A

1 German category 1 stations and comparable international destinations of 250.000 passengers per day or more
2 only direct connections shown; travel times as of the DB 2011 timetable
3 ICE Sprinter
4 proposed services for 2015
5 additional or alternative ICE stops for Berlin at: Berlin-Gesundbrunnen, Berlin-Spandau and Berlin Ostbf
for Cologne (Köln) at: Köln Messe/Deutz and Köln/Bonn Flughafen Fbf
for Frankfurt at: Frankfurt (Main) Flughafen Fbf
and Hamburg at: HH-Altona, HH Dammtor and HH-Harburg