Germany - General Information

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Country Name

Germany (Deutschland)

National Railway System

Deutsche Bahn AG (DB). The principal operating divisions of DB are:

  • DB Reise & Touristik - Long distance passenger services
  • DB Regio - Local passenger services
  • DB Station & Service - Operates passenger stations
  • DB Cargo - Freight
  • DB Netz - Track and infrastructure
  • DB Holding & Gesellschaften - Other activities

The following have been, or are being, set up as DB subsidiary train operating companies:

  • DB Autozüg GmbH
  • DB-Zug-Bus Nordrhein Holding GmbH
  • DB-Zug-Bus Regionalverkehr Alb-Bodensee GmbH
  • DB-Zug-Bus Westfalen Holding GmbH
  • Metropolitan GmbH
  • S-Bahn Berlin GmbH
  • S-Bahn Hamburg GmbH
  • Usedomer Bäderbahn GmbH [UBB]
  • Zug-Bus Schleswig-Holstein GmbH

The Eisenbundesamt (EBA) is a government-sponsored safety-approvel agency, independent of DB.

Official Website

www.bahn.de

Language

German

Currency

Euro

UIC codes

  • Deutsche Bahn AG: numeric 80, alpha DB.
  • Ahaus Alstätter Eisenbahn GmbH and Bentheimer Eisenbahn AG: numeric 68, alpha AAE.
  • The former Deutsche Reichsbahn code was 50, but this will now be seen only on withdrawn or museum vehicles.

Timetable

Journey Planner

reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

Downloadable Timetable

kursbuch.bahn.de/hafas/kbview.exe/d.&rt=1&mainframe=tab_main

Click on "Tabellenübersichten" in the left hand column. This contains further sections:

  • Aktualisierte Tabellen (Updated tables)
  • Fernverkehrstabellen(Long distance trains)
  • Regionaltabellen (Regional services)
  • Bustabellen (Bus services)
  • Schifffahrtstabellen (Shipping services)
  • Urlaubstabellen (Holiday trains)
  • Nachtzugtabellen (Night trains)
  • Bergbahnen (Mountain railways)
  • Museums- und Nostalgiebahnen (Preserved railways)

from which one can select the desired table number.

Printed Timetable

DB no longer provides a hard-copy national timetable. The 2007-8 Kursbuch was the last one available for general sale. Some Länder have continued to sponsor the production of printed timetable books in Kursbuch format, but only for those tables traversing the relevant Land.

Engineering Information

bauarbeiten.bahn.de in German only.

Maps

DB's Offizielle Streckenkarte der Deutschen Bahnen, which is widely available, shows all German railways on a sheet map at a scale of 1:750.000, with a 1:375.000 enlargement of the Ruhr area. This distinguishes single and double track lines, narrow gauge and electrified railways. Depiction of complex areas can be confusing, particularly because four-track railways are marked as two adjacent double track lines. Colouring indicates lines used by express trains and the frequency of service. Rivers, canals and autobahnen are marked, with shading to indicate hills and mountains.

Fahrplankarte für Bus und Bahn Deutschland published by Verkehrsclub Deutschland is a geographically-representative network diagram at a scale of 1:750.000, with enlargements for various city areas. Colour is used to indicate the nature of a service along a railway, and the thickness of the line indicates service frequency. Railways used by several different services are depicted by a parallel line for each. Use of pale green to indicate S-Bahn services means that these are hardly visible. Non-passenger lines are not marked, but inter-urban bus routes are. Rivers, canals and relief are shown.

Eisenbahnatlas Deutschland (ISBN 978-3-89494-136-9), published by Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH (website www.schweers-wall.de in German only) shows railways at 1:300.000 scale, with enlargements for the Ruhr and principal cities. Single and double-track lines, electrified and freight-only railways are distinguished. Private lines are identified and named, DB lines used by other passenger train operators are marked and the gauge of narrow-gauge lines is stated. Lines out of use and those entirely closed are also shown. Details can be confused in congested areas, particularly because parallel lines are used to show railways with more than two tracks. Rivers, canals and forests are marked.

RV Verlag road maps and atlases at 1:200.000 scale show railways generally comprehensively and accurately. Closed railways may remain marked for some time after track has been lifted. RV Verlag publications are widely available in Germany, including at station bookshops.

Gauge

Standard. There are various narrow-gauge private lines. DB operates a metre-gauge line on the island of Wangerooge. The train ferry terminal at Sassnitz Fährhafen (Mukran) has 1524 mm gauge tracks to receive and despatch wagons from and to Klaipeda, in addition to the standard gauge tracks. The funicular section Obstfelderschmiede - Lichtenhain is 1800 mm gauge.

Electrification

15kV 16.7Hz. The Berlin S-Bahn is 800V dc third rail, and the Hamburg S-Bahn is 1200V dc third rail. Obstfelderschmiede to Cursdorf is 500V dc overhead and Blankenburg (Harz) to Königshütte is 25kV 50Hz (This line is out of use between Königshütte and Elbingerode).

Rule of the road

Right.

Other Railways

See separate document.

Tourist lines

Very few tourist lines run frequently - fortnightly during the summer is quite common, although some operate only two or three times a year. In many cases these are weekend operations over private freight lines. Whilst many tourist trains are steam-worked, numerous preserved railbuses and diesel locomotives are also used. A German language site Eisenbahn Vereinskarte Deutschland comprises an interactive map of Germany showing most preserved railways. An English language site gives a list of many lines in alphabetical order. Both give direct links to the various railways' homepages/timetables. The DB website gives timetables for a number of preserved lines in its Museums- und Nostalgiebahnen section, sometimes in a more easily intelligible form than the railways’ own websites. Printed timetable and other information about tourist lines are published annually in "Kursbuch der Deutschen Museums-Eisenbahn" (Verlag Uhle & Kleinmann, Postfach 15 43, 32295 Lübbecke: fax +49 5741 90224). Owing to the very large number of tourist lines in Germany, no one source appears to give a comprehensive list of every operation, so it is suggested that each of the above sources is consulted.

A few recent operations are not listed in the sites mentioned above:

A special category are Parkeisenbahnen, which are complex miniature railways where operations closely follow the prototype. A comprehensive list of these is given at www.parkeisenbahn.de/anderepe.htm.

Rail cycling ('Draisinenfahrten') is possible on a number of lines; see the IG Draisinenfahrten website. Click on 'Deutschland' to obtain a list of operations in geographical order with some useful information. Click on 'International', followed by 'Draisinenlinks' to obtain website details.

Metro

Berlin, Hamburg, München, Nürnberg. A number of other cities have underground tram routes, known as U-Bahn or Stadtbahn, including Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Frankfurt am Main, Gelsenkirchen, Hannover, Kassel, Köln, Ludwigshafen, Mannheim, Mühlheim (Ruhr) and Stuttgart.

Trams

Augsburg, Bad Schandau, Berlin, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Brandenburg, Braunschweig, Bremen, Chemnitz, Cottbus, Darmstadt, Dessau, Dortmund, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Erfurt, Essen, Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Oder, Freiburg (Breisgau), Gelsenkirchen, Gera, Görlitz, Gotha, Halberstadt, Halle (Saale), Hannover, Heidelberg, Jena, Karlsruhe, Kassel, Köln, Krefeld, Leipzig, Ludwigshafen, Magdeburg, Mainz, Mannheim, Mülheim (Ruhr), München, Nordhausen, Nürnberg, Plauen, Potsdam, Rostock, Rüdersdorf, Schwerin, Strausberg, Stuttgart, Ulm, Woltersdorf, Würzburg, Zwickau. Many neighbouring systems are interlinked. It is possible to travel entirely by tram, changing cars and gauge several times, all the way from Benrath (south of Düsseldorf) to Witten (east of Bochum). This is reputed to be the longest possible journey by tram anywhere in the world.

Recent and Future Changes

Following the unification of Germany in 1990, the two railway systems Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) and Deutsche Reichsbahn (DR) were amalgamated as a government-owned company, Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) on 1 January 1994. Since then DB has been re-organised on a divisional basis, as a prelude to privatisation, but with strong central control. Plans to float parts of DB, particularly the Reise and Touristik long-distance business, have been disrupted because forecast profits have not been made. DB as a whole is suffering unexpectedly high losses, principally due to overspending on major infrastructure projects. Notwithstanding this, DB is acquiring interests abroad (for example, in UK alone: English, Welsh & Scottish Railways; Chiltern Railways; London Overground; Tyne & Wear Metro; Arriva).

In the years following reunification, extensive work was undertaken to re-open lines across the former border between East and West Germany, and it is now extremely difficult to see where the border was. Most railways were rebuilt on their previous alignment, although the line from Stapelburg to Vienenburg was new, replacing that to Bad Harzburg. Unification resulted in major changes to the railway system in Berlin, as most lines that were severed by the wall were reinstated. An entirely new north-south main line was opened through the centre of Berlin, approximately on the course of the former Berlin Wall and serving the new Berlin Hbf, on the site of the former Lehrter Bf. Most former DR main lines have been entirely rebuilt and there have been several electrification schemes.

During the 1980s DB started building high speed lines, the first being from Hannover to Würzburg and Mannheim to Stuttgart. The high speed line between Lehrte and Berlin-Spandau was completed in 1998 followed by those from Köln to Frankfurt am Main, including a new station at Frankfurt Flughafen, and between Nürnberg and Ingolstadt. As part of the construction of a high speed route between Bruxelles and Köln the Aachener-Busch tunnel close to the Belgian border is being refurbished for higher speed running. The southern bore is complete and currently worked as a bidirectional single line for 160 kph running; the northern one is in progress with a planned completion at the end of 2010. High speed lines are under construction between Halle and Erfurt and between Erfurt and Ebensfeld, north of Bamberg, but it is unlikely that many others will be built for some time, on environmental and financial grounds.

The Ueckermünde branch in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was extended on 15 August 2009. This short extension of 840 metres uses the former freight branch to Ueckermünde Hafen. Ueckermünde station was relocated adjacent to the main road slightly to the north of the original site and there is a new single platform terminus, Ueckermünde Stadthafen.

The railway bridge at Wolgast to the island of Usedom opened to passengers on 28 May 2000; the Usedomer Bäderbahn system was extended by 1.5 km on 20 September 2008 from Ahlbeck Grenze on the German side of the border with Poland to a new two platform terminus at Świnoujście Centrum, in the western suburbs of the Polish town of Świnoujście. Also opened on 28 May 2000 were the branch from Langenhagen to Hannover Flughafen and the cross-border line from Klingenthal to Kraslice (Czech Republic). Rail traffic also resumed between Kremmen and Neuruppin, following several years' closure for reconstruction. The service from Andernach to Mayen West was extended to Kaisersesch from 6 August 2000.

A passenger service to Dresden Flughafen commenced operation on 24 March 2001, using the previously-closed branch from Dresden Klotzsche to Grenzstraße, which was extended to the airport. A new curve avoiding Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg station, allowing services between Nürnberg and Dresden to run direct between Bayreuth and Hof, came into use in June 2001. The Dürener Kreisbahn introduced a passenger service between Jülich and Linnich from June 2001. A passenger service was reintroduced between Gronau and Eschede (Netherlands) in 2001.

The Chemnitz to Stollberg (Sachs) branch has been converted to a light rail line and connected to the city tram system. The Stendal side of Wittenberge station was closed and a new connection opened to the Berlin side, enabling all trains to use that part of the station. The Cottbus to Guben line has been re-routed between Cottbus and Peitz Ost, in order to allow extension of opencast mining.

The line between Königs Wusterhausen and Lubbenau is closed until April 2011 for rebuilding and upgrading. RE2 and ICs are diverted via Finsterwalde: for details follow link.

There were extensive cuts in the passenger network in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s, mainly involving little-used rural lines. This has largely come to an end and some railways are reopening. The former DDR had a public transport system appropriate for a population where the level of car ownership was very low, and most vehicles were unsuitable for long journeys. As a result traffic has fallen away severely on many local lines, and large numbers have closed. Poor infrastructure has also forced closure, and some train services have been withdrawn at very short notice.

The funding of local transport, including railways, now rests with the Länder (Provinces) and in some areas responsibility has been devolved to the Kreis (Districts). Western Länder are generally supportive of rail. Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz, in particular, have been active in promoting rail re-openings. The poorer, Eastern Länder cannot so easily afford to support rail services. There have been particularly extensive closures in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (one of the least-populated parts of Germany) and Brandenburg. Sachsen has a stated preference for bus services in rural areas, and lines in this Land are particularly at risk.

In order to improve its poor financial position, DB ceased operating Inter-Regio, semi-fast long distance services, loss-making part of DB Reise and Touristik. They were replaced by Regional Express trains, worked by DB Regio and subsidised by the Länder.

The German railways were never entirely nationalised, with various independent lines surviving, particularly in Baden-Württemberg. Now Länder are tendering the operation of local passenger services, and many independent operators have won tenders in competition with DB. In some cases these are long-established, local railway companies, expanding out of their own network. Some operators are entirely new and foreign companies have taken responsibility for some services.

In many cases the new operator has started out with elderly railbuses acquired second hand, but new rolling stock is rapidly being acquired. RegioSprinters and other lightweight railbuses, are entering service with both DB and the private operators. DB has been having less success with various types of tilting diesel trains, which are only just starting to give reliable service. There is an increasing tendency, especially in the West, for local trains to be worked by diesel units even if on electrified lines. The diesel trains can be worked by one man, whereas most local electric trains are worked by locomotives and require at least two crew members.

Open access long-distance passenger and freight operation is possible in Germany. Increasing numbers of open access freight operations are starting, but there has been limited success with passenger services. Georg Verkehrs (of Germany) and SJ (of Sweden) have operated overnight trains between Berlin and Malmö since 2000, but others have come (and some have gone), such as Eurobahn, Connex and Veolia. DB Netz has been ordered to charge independent operators the same prices for track access as the train-operating divisions of DB, which had received substantial discounts. Hamburg-Köln-Express (HKX) had planned an August 2010 launch of a new Ruhr/Hamburg service but this has been deferred until 2011.

Long distance trains are increasingly fixed-formation, with push-pull operation becoming more common. Conventional locomotive-working is increasingly confined to international and overnight trains.

Special notes

DB trains are divided into a number of distinct categories, thus:

  • S (S-Bahn): Regular interval local trains in urban areas, generally using segregated tracks
  • RB (Regionalbahn): Basic local services.
  • RE (RegionalExpress): Regular interval local or semi-fast trains calling at fewer stations than RB services.
  • IRE (Inter-RegionalExpress): Long distance semi-fast trains.
  • IC (InterCity): Long distance expresses, making limited stops.
  • EC (EuroCity): Similar to IC, but for international journeys.
  • RJ (Railjet): High speed Austrian Railways trains on the München – Wien - Budapest route.
  • ICE (InterCity Express) & ICE Sprinter: High speed, long distance electric trains worked with special rolling stock. Special fares are payable on these trains, and if purchasing a ticket for a route on which ICE trains, operate it is important to specify which type of train it is intended to use. It is usually possible to make a slower but cheaper journey by IC or RE service.
  • THA (Thalys): High speed trains on the Köln - Brussels - Paris route, managed jointly with the French and Belgian railways.
  • ICN (InterCityNight) and CNL (CityNightLine): Categories of overnight train.
  • D-Zug: This designation is derived from Durchgang, the German for corridor. Appropriate trains were designated D-Züge when corridor coaches were first introduced, and the term remained in use until largely replaced by IC and IR. Remaining D-Züge include long distance services not fitting one of the above categories and using older types of rolling stock and international trains not to EC standards (such as the Berlin - Saratov service).

DB has changed from a kilometric fare scale to market pricing. Bargain tickets include Sparpreise and SuperSparpreise which are roughly equivalent to British Savers and SuperSavers, and subject to similar restrictions. Among the most useful tickets is the Schönes Wochenende Ticket, which gives unlimited travel for up to five people travelling together on all local trains (S-Bahn, RB, RE and IRE) on Saturday or Sunday. The ticket is also valid on many tram, U-Bahn and bus services. Länder Tickets give unlimited travel for up to five people for one day throughout the Land (and in some cases a neighbouring Land as well) concerned on local trains. Most Länder also offer a cheaper ticket for one person.

A few services operate only during school term time, or are extensively altered during school holidays. The dates of holidays varies from Land to Land.

Corridor Trains (Korridorzüge)

There are routes outside Germany which are used by domestic DB services running between one part of the country and another. Passengers travelling between German stations are not subject to border or customs controls. Domestic German tickets are valid, but those sold at DB stations in Switzerland are priced in Swiss Francs. Routes used by these trains are:

  • Hagenwerder - Hirschfelde via Krzewina Zgorzelecka (Poland) [DB table 231]: used by local trains between Görlitz and Zittau, all of which call at Krzewina Zgorzelecka (to serve the German village of Ostritz).
  • Bietingen - Erzingen (Baden) via Schaffhausen (Switzerland) [DB table 730]: used by trains between Waldshut and Singen (Hohentwiel). Although a corridor line for DB ticketing purposes, trains call intermediately in Switzerland and through passengers are deemed - for border control purposes - to be entering and leaving Switzerland.
  • Neusalza-Spremberg - Taubenheim (Spree) via Czech Republic [DB table 235]: used by trains between Ebersbach and Dresden.
  • Raun - Bad Brambach via Czech Republic [DB table 544]: used by trains between Adorf (Vogtland) and Bad Brambach.

Passengers travelling between German stations via Basel Bad Bf (Switzerland) are not subject to border or customs controls, provided they remain within the station. This enables connections to be made between tables 702, 730 and 735 without formally entering Switzerland.

See also