High-speed rail in Germany

Construction of the first high-speed rail in Germany began shortly after that of the French LGVs (lignes à grande vitesse, high-speed lines). However, legal battles caused significant delays, so that the German Intercity-Express (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 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 88 were injured in the resulting derailment, which was made worse by the train colliding with a road bridge and causing it to collapse. 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 maglev train system. The Transrapid reaches speeds up to 550 km/h (340 mph). The Emsland test facility, with a total length of 31.5 km (19.6 mi), operated in until 2011 when it was closed and in 2012 its demolition was approved.[1] 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

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 CentraalN/AN/A2h 37min2h 11min3h 55minN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Berlin Hbf 4N/AN/A4h 17min4h 14min3h 52min31h 42min3h 58min3N/A5h 04minN/AN/A
Brussels Midi/ZuidN/AN/A1h 50minN/A3h 05minN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Cologne/Köln Hbf 42h 37min4h 17min1h 50min21min1h 01min33h 31min34h 32minN/A2h 13min8h 52minN/A
Düsseldorf Hbf2h 11min4h 14minN/A21min1h 26min3h 06min4h 41minN/A2h 28minN/AN/A
Frankfurt (Main) Hbf 43h 55min3h 39min33h 05min1h 04min31h 26min3h 20min33h 09min3h 38min1h 18min36h 24min3h 53min
Hamburg Hbf 4N/A1h 42minN/A3h 35min53h 06min3h 20min35h 31minN/A4h 59minN/A7h 35min
München HbfN/A3h 55min3N/A4h 32min4h 44min3h 09min5h 31min5h 34min2h 12min3h 56minN/A
Paris Gare de l'EstN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A3h 38minN/A5h 34min3h 09minN/AN/A
Stuttgart HbfN/A5h 04minN/A2h 13min2h 28min1h 17min34h 59min2h 12min3h 09minN/AN/A
Vienna/Wien HbfN/AN/AN/A8h 50minN/A6h 21minN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Zürich HBN/A8h 39minN/AN/AN/A3h 53min7h 35minN/AN/AN/AN/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 2018 timetable
3 ICE Sprinter
4 additional or alternative ICE stops for Berlin at: Berlin Südkreuz, 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
5 IC Service


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