European Rail News reported last month on the revised train timetables in operation following the Elbe flooding in early June. Europe’s main east-west rail route was severed by those floods, necessitating the diversion of all trains running west from Berlin towards Hanover and beyond.
When the interim schedules were introduced on 21 June, it was unclear whether repairing the damaged lines would take weeks or months. Now it is clear that it’s going to be quite a protracted affair getting services back to normal. The railway authorities are talking about December 2013 at the earliest for restoration of regular services, and the repairs might possibly extend even into 2014.
The current interim timetable will be extended until next Sunday, then from Monday 29 July a new schedule will be introduced — euphemistically dubbed an "optimised timetable."
These are the principal features of that new timetable. The details here apply to all services from 29 July 2013:
The Moscow – Berlin – Paris services operated by Russian Railways are rerouted and will not serve Hanover until further notice. These trains will run non-stop from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Fulda (using a more southerly route than usual — so through Thuringia).
Hanover does however retain a daily link with Moscow with the through service from Switzerland to Russia (conveyed east of Hanover by the Jan Kiepura) continuing to serve Hanover, albeit at a peculiarly inconvenient hour — just after two in the morning in each direction.
The premium Sprinter services, aimed fair and square at business travellers in the Berlin-Frankfurt market are all cancelled until further notice.
The ICE services from Berlin to Cologne, Essen and other cities in the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation carry one of Europe’s major passenger flows. Trains will leave Berlin about hourly and will run via the old DDR transit route to reach the former inner-German border at Helmstedt. This usually adds an hour to the journey time between Berlin and Hanover.
A couple of services in each direction each day which would normally have ICE services are now downgraded to InterCity trains.
There will be one daytime train each day from Berlin to Amsterdam, usually taking just under eight hours for the journey (but a little faster on Sundays).
There will also be a night train option from Berlin to Amsterdam using the Jan Kiepura service. Passengers can generally board this service at Berlin Ostbahnhof at 23.37 (but do check as the departure station and time can vary). Arrival is in Amsterdam at 10.49 next day until early September, but may thereafter be up to one hour earlier.
The direct ICE services from Berlin to Stuttgart via Frankfurt (some of which continue beyond Stuttgart to Munich) are all diverted via alternative routes, most commonly serving Stendal and Wolfsburg as they head west from Berlin.
This reinstates a direct link from Berlin to Wolfsburg (sorely missed in the interim timetable that was introdced in June). This is a key commuter flow, with many Berlin residents working at the VW works in Wolfsburg. Journey times will be extended by about an hour — and that also applies to travellers heading beyond Wolfsburg to Frankfurt and Stuttgart.
The direct ICE services from Berlin to Basel via Frankfurt (some of which continue beyond Basel to Berne and Interlaken) are all diverted via alternative routes, most commonly through Thuringia. Expect journey times extended by up to 30 minutes — although for a small number of trains on this ICE axis running via Magdeburg, the journey will take an hour longer.
The direct service from Berlin to Lüneburg (which was due to be extended to Hamburg from 23 August 2013) has been cancelled until further notice. EC Line 99 east from Berlin into Poland is running in its regular timings.
The Russian service from Moscow to Paris and vice versa is mentioned above, as is the Jan Kiepura from Berlin to Amsterdam.
The City Night Line service from Berlin to Paris is diverted between Berlin and Hanover, as are the through carriages from Berlin to Copenhagen (attached to the Jan Kiepura for the first part of the journey). Expect slight delays due to the slower route taken west from Berlin.
The night trains to Munich, Zurich, Vienna, Budapest and Malmø are all sticking with their normal timings. Eastbound trains bound for Poland, Belarus and Russia which start in Berlin are also unaffected.
Normal services have been restored on the ICE route from Berlin to Munich via Halle and / or Leipzig, and also on the EuroCity route via Dresden to Prague and beyond. Services from Berlin to Hamburg and also to destinations on the Baltic Coast were all unaffected by the flooding and thus continue as per normal.