Germany's newly completed rail link between Cologne and Frankfurt could provide the impetus for a Europe-wide high-speed rail network.
On track: The ICE-3 makes a test-run on the new Cologne-Frankfurt link.
With a price tag of around 6 billion euro, the German rail system’s new baby has not come cheap. But the Deutsche Bahn says it’s made history, taking only six years to build the new high-speed link between Cologne and Frankfurt.
After a year’s delay due to leaking tunnels and the construction of noise barriers, commuters are looking forward to using the link from 1 August when they'll be able to travel at heartstopping speeds of 300 kms/hr and cut the journey between the two cities from over two hours to only seventy-six minutes.
The time saved doesn't come without a sacrifice. There'll be no more romantic views of the Rhine - one fifth of the journey will be spent speeding through tunnels, and the rest mostly through hilly sections of forest. But passengers will be saving about one hour and as the saying goes, ‘time is money’.
Paying for speed
A single economy ticket on the new rail link will cost 51 euro. Passengers currently pay 39 euro for the trip. Deutsche Bahn admits that students and holiday-makers won’t welcome the price increase. But it says it’s confident the new trains will be full.
Deutsche Bahn’s Marketing Director Hartmut Herdan says the aim of the service is to attract people, mainly business travellers, away from using their cars. As much of the track runs alongside the Autobahn between Frankfurt and Cologne, the high-speed train will be very visible competition.
German business and industry have cautiously welcomed the new rail link, but they say it’s too early to predict how the economy in the region will be affected. Some residents are angry that trains won’t be stopping in Bonn, the nation’s former capital. Some towns along the old route fear they could tourism revenues as the new route bypasses them.
Deutsche Bahn has run a concerted campaign to counter opposition to the project. The Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will do his bit to promote the link next Thursday when he will be among its first official passengers. Potential sceptics, chiefly young people, are being attracted with offers of prizes including tickets to a rock concert and opportunities to experience the journey from the train’s ‘cockpit’.
Harmonisation on track
The new Cologne-Frankfurt link could be the centrepiece of a future Europe-wide high-speed rail network.
A new European high-speed train is being developed which combines the French TGV with Germany’s ICE.
Deutsche Bahn has released three entirely different series of ICE in the past decade. The first-generation of sleek, white trains began operating in 1991 and quickly became the flagship of Germany’s long-distance rail system. Now more than 200 of the high-tech trains operate across the country.
A feast of figures