New ICE Sprinter services will link Munich and Berlin from December 2017 in just four hours. Shown here is Munich's Marienplatz and the city hall (photo © Prasit Rodphan / dreamstime.com).
Next month sees new railway timetables starting in many European countries. Here’s what Berliners can expect when those new 2018 schedules come into effect on Sunday 10 December 2017.
The headline story in the German capital is the launch of a new super-fast train service to Munich. From next month, thrice-daily ICE Sprinter services will link the two cities in just four hours. Although other trains on the route will take as much as an hour longer, this is still a big improvement on the current timetable where most trains take 6 hrs 30 mins for the Berlin to Munich run.
The big time savings are possible due to the opening of a new high-speed route running south from Erfurt into Bavaria, so ICE trains from Berlin and Leipzig to Bavaria will now use that new line rather than the old line through Jena.
From December, more passengers heading from Berlin to Germany’s commercial hub in Frankfurt-am-Main will find their trains routing through Erfurt rather than Göttingen. The very fastest train from Berlin to Frankfurt will be 15 minutes slower than at present, taking 3hrs 52mins instead of the present headline timing of 3hrs 37mins. There will however be several trains each day linking the two cities in under four hours.
Yet some trains will continue to use the old route via Wolfsburg, Braunschweig and Göttingen to Frankfurt. This means that Spandau station in Berlin will continue to have a direct link to Frankfurt. The standard weekday timetable shows ten trains each day using that route from December, with six of these services continuing beyond Frankfurt to destinations in Switzerland.
In the new timetable, the weekly night sleeper from Berlin to Paris will now leave the German capital each Wednesday evening (instead of Thursdays), reaching Paris the following morning. The return run will leave Paris on Thursday evenings (instead of Fridays).
The operating days of the direct trains from Berlin to Minsk and Moscow change, with departures from Berlin now being on Friday mornings, Saturday evenings and Monday evenings. The Friday morning departure gives a very useful daytime link to eastern Poland and western Belarus.
The Nightjet sleeper train from Berlin to Zürich is retimed to a give an earlier departure from Berlin. It presently leaves at 22.59 from Berlin Hauptbahnhof but that changes next month to 21.06. In the new timetable, the train will serve four different Berlin stations, viz. Berlin Ostbahnhof, Hauptbahnhof, Zoologischer Garten and Wannsee. The decision to serve Zoo will bring a smile to those Berlin residents who have never quite forgiven Deutsche Bahn for downgrading Zoo station when the glitzy new Hauptbahnhof opened in 2006.
The Berlin-Zürich overnight train is operated by ÖBB Austrian Railways. From 10 December, the train takes an entirely different route through Germany, running west from Berlin (with station stops in Potsdam and Brandenburg) and then on via Göttingen to Frankfurt and beyond. Arrival in Zürich is as now at 09.05 in the morning.
A sad loss, though, is the demise of the Metropol night sleeper service from Berlin to Bratislava and Budapest. This train also carried through carriages to Vienna. The last departure from Berlin will be on the evening of Saturday 9 December. There is however talk of the Berlin-Vienna overnight link being revived in late 2018 as part of ÖBB’s Nightjet network.
The reopening of the main Berlin-Dresden line after a 16-month programme of rebuilding brings Saxony a little closer to the German capital. Throughout 2017, trains from Berlin to Dresden have been routed through Jüterbog and Riesa, but from 10 December they will return to the main line via Elsterwerda. All trains from Berlin will now service both Neustadt and Hauptbahnhof stations in Dresden.
Journey times from Berlin to Prague are trimmed by about ten minutes from December, and further improvements in June 2018 will see the fastest trains from Berlin to Prague taking not much more than four hours. As today, one daytime train each day on the route will continue beyond Prague to Budapest. The overall travel time from Berlin to Budapest is reduced by half an hour from 10 December, with this train running to Nyugati station in Budapest rather than Keleti.
The new timetables in December see ICE trains returning on the Berlin-Rostock route where the long-distance services have latterly all been Intercity (IC) trains. But three Munich to Berlin ICE services per week will be extended north to Rostock: one on Fridays and two on Saturdays. On other days of the week, IC trains will run from Berlin to Rostock as now.
Berlin will retain a twice-daily link with Kiel, with a choice of an ICE and a Czech EC train on the route. But the timings of the ICE train change from 10 December, leaving Berlin about an hour later than now.
The IC trains from Berlin to Germany’s North Sea coast continue as now, with one departure to each of Westerland (Sylt) and Norddeich Mole. The latter train is the only double-deck Intercity train serving the German capital.