The Eggenberg Palace on the western edge of Graz - the Styrian capital will get a direct link from Berlin and Dresden from early May 2020 (photo © Pavle Marjanovic / dreamstime.com).
As throughout Europe, new train timetables for Germany kick in with the annual timetable change in December each year. This year the new schedules start on 15 December. Here’s a rundown of some of the key changes which we are expecting in and around Germany.
Bear in mind that what we publish here is not yet 100% confirmed. Deutsche Bahn will publish its new timetables for all inner-German services and also for many international trains on Tuesday 15 October. On that date, ticket sales for most routes will open for travel on dates beyond the mid-December timetable change.
Most routes will remain unchanged. From mid-December, and on through the early months of 2020, we expect to see more of DB’s chic new ICE4 trains deployed on routes which hitherto have relied on older ICE stock. This will be a boost for cyclists wanting to transport their bikes by train as ICE4 trains have a limited amount of bike space, whereas ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 trains don’t take bikes at all.
We don’t expect to see any big changes on international services from Germany to France, Netherlands, Luxembourg or Belgium, bar for the probable addition of a new night train from Vienna via Passau and Cologne to Brussels in early 2020. This new Belgian link would possibly be formed of carriages detached at Cologne from the existing overnight service from Vienna to Düsseldorf. But that’s mere speculation as no timetable info is yet available. Or is it possible that on just a couple of days each week the entire train might run Vienna to Brussels instead of Vienna to Düsseldorf? Or even from Cologne via Düsseldorf to Brussels (which would be an unusual, but nonetheless feasible, routing from Cologne to the Belgian capital). Time will tell. We await further information from ÖBB, the operator of the existing Nightjet services from Austria to the Germany's Rhein-Ruhr region.
The existing Hamburg to Copenhagen Eurocity service via Lübeck, Puttgarden and Rødby will be withdrawn. New direct daytime trains from Hamburg to Copenhagen will run via Jutland and Odense instead. On the downside, this means that passengers will no longer get the rail-ferry experience (with the 45-minute boat ride from Puttgarden to Rødby). But the new arrangement will be a boost for less-able passengers who will be able to remain in the comfort of their seats for the entire ride from Hamburg to the Danish capital. The overall journey time from Hamburg to Copenhagen will be pretty much the same as now.
The new routing from Hamburg to Copenhagen has implications for travellers following Route 28 in the 16th edition of our book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. We shall post revised arrangements for that route here in European Rail News just before the new timetables start on 15 December 2019. The existing service, as described in Route 28, continues unaltered up to and including 14 December.
Deutsche Bahn will introduce a brand-new Intercity route from north to south across eastern Germany. The new service will run from Rostock via Neustrelitz and Berlin to Dresden, with trains generally departing every two hours. This is a major new development, one which greatly enhances connectivity between the Baltic region and Saxony.
We expect legacy IC stock to be used on this route to begin with, with those older trains being progressively replaced by modern double-deck Intercity trains during 2020. The new service will effectively double service frequency between Berlin and Dresden, complementing the existing EuroCity services which already run every two hours between those cities. Because of the issue of rolling stock availability, it's likely that this new route will debut from 15 December with just four or five trains per day in each direction, with the full complement of eight trains a day on the route (both ways of course) being introduced from 8 March 2020.
Parts of the railway from Rostock to Warnemünde are closed for major engineering work until May 2020, but on the completion of that work, it’s likely that the new Dresden-Rostock IC route will be extended north to the coast at Warnemünde.
Industry sources have suggested that the stock used for the new Rostock to Dresden IC service mentioned above will also operate an overnight train (only with seats – no couchettes or sleepers) from Rostock to Vienna via Berlin, Jena and Passau. We suspect it's unlikely that this new service will debut on 15 December 2019; it's more likely to be added only at some later date (possibly from mid-March 2020).
The early morning Porta Bohemica service from Leipzig via Dresden to Prague – which returns every evening from the Czech capital back to Leipzig – will be withdrawn from 15 December. But from early May 2020, there will be a brand-new international Railjet train from Berlin via Dresden and Prague to Vienna and Graz and that new service will fill the gap between Dresden and Prague left by the cancellation of the Porta Bohemica.
This will be the first time that Railjet stock has appeared on scheduled services anywhere in eastern Germany. Interestingly, the provisional timetable for the new Railjet shows the train making intermediate stops in rural Brandenburg at both Elsterwerda and Doberlug-Kirchhain. The latter has not been served by any long-distance trains for many years.
The northbound Railjet is shown in advance timetables as not serving Berlin Südkreuz, but instead running non-stop from Doberlug-Kirchhain to Berlin Ostkreuz, then continuing over the Stadtbahn via Berlin Hauptbahnhof to terminate at Charlottenburg - a station which has over the last year regained its status as a Berlin departure point for long-distance journeys. You can now board an early evening train in Charlottenburg for overnight travel to Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. The southbound Railjet, tentatively slated to leave Berlin each morning at 06.16, will start from the lower platforms at Hauptbahnhof and run on the conventional route via Berlin Südkreuz used by all other Prague-bound trains heading south from Berlin.
The new Railjet train will restore a direct daytime link between Dresden and Vienna lost when the Eurocity Vindabona was withdrawn in 2014. The fact that the new Railjet will continue beyond Vienna over the celebrated Semmering Railway to Graz is yet another bonus. The end-to-end travel time from Berlin to Graz will be 11 hrs 17 mins. Amazing, isn't it, that it'll then be easy to once again travel from Berlin or Dresden (or even Doberlug-Kirchhain) to Slovenia or Croatia in a day with just one change of train along the way.
There are no big changes in mid-December on the main-line services from Germany into Poland. But look for big improvements in June 2020 on the Berlin to Warsaw route when journey times will be trimmed and a fifth daily Eurocity train will be introduced between the two capitals.
Further south, on the border between the German state of Saxony and Poland, the Neisse Valley rail route from Görlitz to Zittau, which criss-crosses the German-Polish border several times, will remain closed for reconstruction until March 2020. Rail-replacement buses are in place between Zittau and Hagenwerder (just south of Görlitz), but these bus services stick to German territory on the west bank of the River Neisse. So until this border-hopping railway is reopened, the Polish station at Krzewina Zgorzelecka has no train services whatsoever.
It is likely that there will be some modest retiming of the Berlin to Przemysl night train from 15 December 2019.
About The Authors
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 17th edition of that book will be published in mid-April 2022. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.