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What you need to know about Germany’s new 2020 train timetable

Germany’s new 2020 train timetable came into force on December 15th. Here’s an overview of the changes.

What you need to know about Germany’s new 2020 train timetable
An ICE4 train near Hamburg. Photo: DPA

With a new route planned and more trains on the tracks, Deutsche Bahn (DB) is trying to make travelling by rail more attractive in Germany.

And for the first time in years, the rail operator has refrained from increasing its rail prices, as is usually the norm with timetable changes – in fact tickets will likely become cheaper in future.

It's down to government plans to reduce the tax on rail tickets as part of the climate package, although the details are still being negotiated.

As part of the new timetable for 2020, services in the east get a boost with the launch of the new Dresden-Berlin-Rostock route.

DB said it wanted to become more punctual and expand capacities for rail travellers in Germany.

From the start of the year up until the end of September, 76.5 per cent of all long-distance trains arrived on time, according to the operator.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to improve safety at railway stations

This was an improvement of 1.6 percentage points compared to the previous year – although almost every fourth long-distance train still arrived late.

“The 2020 timetable is a further milestone in strengthening the railways and the next step in the direction of Germany's regular service,” said DB Board Member Berthold Huber.

“On December 15th we will open a new long-distance line for our customers, consolidate the services offered on the German long-distance network on important routes and integrate new, attractive destinations in our neighbouring countries.”

What's new?

Most routes remain unchanged.

But from mid-December and throughout 2020 there will likely be more of DB's new ICE4 trains on the tracks.

The below map shows the new route (in pale pink), where additional trains will be used (in green, yellow and red) and where extra ICE Sprinters will be used (blue and purple).

DB says it is focusing on a stronger connections and on traffic growth between Germany's metropolitan regions. More trains will be used on important ICE lines. Here's an overview:

  • There will be additional journeys on the ICE lines Berlin-Erfurt-Munich and Berlin-Braunschweig-Frankfurt/Main which will aim to provide an hourly service.
  • On particularly high-demand connections such as Hamburg-Rhine/Ruhr, further high speed Sprinters and booster trains will supplement the existing hourly cycle. This increases the service between Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia by 15 percent.
  • Services between Berlin and Munich and between Hamburg and Cologne will both grow by around 10 percent.
  • DB will operate a 30-minute service between Hamburg and Berlin for the first time from the end of 2021.

New trains

Customers will be able to use the swish new ICE 4 models more frequently along the Upper Rhine and to Switzerland. The new trains will initially run on the Hamburg-Frankfurt-Karlsruhe-Basel-Zurich-Chur route.  These models have more seats as well as bicycle compartments.

So far, the ICE 4 has been used between Berlin and Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart as well as Hamburg and Munich. From June next year, the new ICE will also run between Berlin and Interlaken. In total, DB has ordered 137 of these trains.

READ ALSO: How travelling by train in Germany is set to improve

“Currently a brand-new ICE-4 is put on the rails every three weeks,” DB said.

The below map shows where the ICE 4 trains are already being used (in blue) and the routes trains will be introduced next year (in red).

Boost in eastern Germany

The new Dresden-Berlin-Rostock long-distance line will be launched when the timetable changes.

The new route will operate 10 times per day to begin with. From March, this connection is to be offered every two hours, amounting to 16 trips per day.

It will provide a boost to services between cities and regions in Saxony, Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. 

Six cities will receive a regular two-hourly long-distance connection again: Elsterwerda, Oranienburg, Neustrelitz and Waren (Müritz). Warnemünde and Schönefeld Airport will be added in May 2020.  As soon as the new BER Airport opens in October next year, there will also be a stop there.

More comfort

DB hopes by upgrading trains and offering more services it can improve on its punctuality rate.

DB also wants to get rid of older models of trains and replace them with modern vehicles.  Passengers can then benefit from free WLAN, the ICE portal, rest and family areas.

New connections abroad and overnight

The new timetable also brings with it extra European connections.

Together with the Czech rail operator CD and the Austrian operator ÖBB, DB will be offering a new high speed connection between Berlin-Dresden-Prague-Vienna-Graz from May.

READ ALSO: S-Bahn, trains and buses: Germany to inject an extra €1.2 billion in public transport

Services to Poland will also be improved: from summer 2020, the travel time on Eurocity trains between Berlin and Warsaw will be reduced by 30 minutes.

DB will also continue to expand its night services. In cooperation with ÖBB, there is a new Intercity night service on the Zurich-Berlin and Zurich-Hamburg routes. The night ICs will operate on these routes in conjunction with ÖBB's classic night trains.

Bookings for the new timetable have already started and the new timetable kicks in on Sunday, December 15th.

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For members

STRIKES

How to navigate the Deutsche Bahn train strikes in your region of Germany

A standoff between the GDL train drivers’ union and Deutsche Bahn means that rail services will be crippled nationwide in Germany for five days. Here’s the information you need to navigate the strikes in your region.

How to navigate the Deutsche Bahn train strikes in your region of Germany
Berlin central station on Thursday morning. Photo: dpa | Paul Zinken

Deutsche Bahn is encouraging travellers to download the DB Navigator app and to use it immediately before they travel in order to see which services are currently running.

There is some information in English but the detailed lists of which lines are still running are in German. We provide links here to those pages and a brief overview of the main lines that have been affected. (tip: if it says Linie eingestellt, trains aren’t running on that line. 20-Minuten Takt means they’re running every 20 minutes).

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about the German rail strikes

Berlin

In the capital, S-Bahn services and regional train services have been severely impacted by the strike but the U-Bahn is not run by Deutsche Bahn so is running normally. That means that trying to get around by bus and U-Bahn (both run by BVG) should help you avoid the strikes.

If you’re happy to do plan ahead, there are still some S-Bahn services running. This website (in German) details which lines have been completely closed and which ones still run a train every 20 minutes.

In terms of the key lines: the Ringbahn is not running at all in either direction. Nor is the north-south S26 line, the S45 to the airport (the S9 to BER is still running), and the S75 from Wartemberg in the north-east into the city.

All other S-Bahn lines are running every 20 minutes with the exception of the S8 which is running every 40 mins. Not all of them are doing the full route though.

You can plug your journey into this English page run by Deutsche Bahn and it will show you how to best avoid the strike action.

In terms of regional trains to and from satellite towns, there is a detailed list of which lines have been completely halted for the strike and which have a form of replacement service.

The following lines are not running at all: FEX, RB10, – RB11, RB13, RB20, RB21, RB22, RB23, RB31, RB49, RB55, RE/RB66

Other lines connecting Magdeburg, Dessau, Eberswalde, Stralsund, Rostock and Cottbus with the capital are running reduced services.

Frankfurt

The German finance capital is also seriously affected by strikes on both its S-Bahn and regional services.

A full list of the lines that are not running reduced services can be found in German here.

Be careful to check for updates, as the page is updated every day at 11 am for the following day. 

Here are the current services for Thursday and Friday: The S2, S4, S7 and S9 are not running at all. Other lines are running on basic services but often only every hour.

NRW

A large number of regional and S-Bahn services in the west of the country have been completely stopped. These include the RE8 over Mönchengladbach, Cologne and Bonn, the RE9 between Aachen, Cologne and Siegen, and the RB33 between Essen and Aachen.

The S4 through Dortmund, the S8 through Düsseldorf and the S68 to Wuppertal have also been completely stopped. See here for further details.

Updates will be posted daily at 10:30am on the www.bahn.de website.

Bavaria

In Munich, a replacement S-Bahn timetable has been put in place for the duration of the strikes, with long delays expected on most lines.

The S1, which normally runs between the city and the airport, will be running every 20-40 minutes, but won’t go as far as the airport. The S2, S3, S4 and S6 will equally be running a partial service every 20-40 minutes and won’t stop at all stations. 

The S7 will only be running on an hourly basis, while the S8 will be running every 20 minutes between Pasing and the airport, and will also be running every 40-60 minutes to stations further along the line.

The S20 will not be running at all during the strike.

DB has not yet published a detailed list available of which regional trains have been affected in Bavaria, but cross-border services into Austria, Italy and Hungary and likely to be heavily impacted.

However DB say that they will update the travel planner website for Bavaria every day at 12:00 for the following day. You can plug your departure point and destination into that site here or check for general travel updates on here.

Other areas of the country

Various other parts of the are facing impediments to travel due to the strike. The east of the country is particularly affected. For an exhaustive list of all of the regions of the country where lines are not running according to schedule you can peruse this web page (in German).

READ ALSO: Germany’s train strikes: What rights do you have as a passenger?

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