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Major German rail route closed

By Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries |

Practical Info

Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof is currently the end of the line for ICE trains heading south towards Switzerland. The main Rhine Valley rail route is blocked south of Karlsruhe.  (photo © Martin Fischer /

Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof is currently the end of the line for ICE trains heading south towards Switzerland. The main Rhine Valley rail route is blocked south of Karlsruhe. (photo © Martin Fischer /

At present no trains are running on the main line south from Rastatt up the Rhine Valley towards Switzerland. This is due to track damage following a mishap while engineering work was taking place last weekend. This is a major north-south route which carries heavy flows of both passenger and freight traffic. Rastatt lies just south of Karlsruhe. The line is completely blocked in both directions between Rastatt and Baden Baden.

The disruption also affects long-distance train services from Germany to France which would normally cross the Rhine at Kehl near Strasbourg. The hourly local trains from Offenburg in Germany to Strasbourg are not affected. The chances are that the main Rhine Valley line will remain closed until at least early October. 

The problem is compounded by the fact that the only other main-line rail route from south-west Germany to Switzerland, viz. the line which runs south from Stuttgart to Schaffhausen, is partly closed throughout the month of August (and on until 10 September) for a long-planned major track upgrade. So the direct InterCity services from Stuttgart to Schaffhausen and Zürich are completely suspended and this route is not available to take diverted trains from the Rhine Valley route. 

The following services are affected: 

A. Long distance night sleeper services

  • RZD's Paris-Moscow night sleepers are diverted via Forbach and the Saar region. The scheduled stops in Strasbourg and Karlsruhe are dropped, but these trains will all make an additional stop in Mannheim (in both directions). Overall travel times are unaffected. 
  • ÖBB's Nightjet services from Zürich and Basel to Berlin and Hamburg (and vice versa) are cancelled entirely in both directions. 

B. Long distance day-time services (ICE or TGV) between Germany and France

  • The direct TGV services from Frankfurt-am-Main, Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and Munich to Strasbourg are all suspended. 
  • The TGVs from Frankfurt-am-Main to the Rhône Valley and the Mediterranean are diverted via the Saar region and Forbach (in some cases with an additional halt in Saarbrücken). On some days northbound services will terminate in Mannheim, with onward connections on an ICE to Frankfurt. Journey times are extended by over an hour. 
  • The Munich to Paris TGV services are diverted via the Saar region and Forbach with an additional stop in Mannheim. Journey times are extended by about an hour.
  • The ICE / TGV services from Stuttgart to Paris are diverted via the Saar region and Forbach with an additional stop in Mannheim. Journey times are extended by about an hour.
  • Many ICE / TGV services from Frankfurt-am-Main to Paris are unaffected. The only trains between these cities which are affected are those normally routed via Strasbourg. These will now run via the Saar region and Forbach, a diversion which barely affects journey times. 
  • The direct TGVs from Paris to Freiburg im Breisgau and vice versa are unaffected.

C. Long-distance daytime Rhine Valley services (ICE, EC, IC)

The main line is closed just north of Baden Baden. There is no easy alternative rail route at this point, so passengers on this major north-south axis will need to transfer onto a bus for the short stretch between Rastatt and Baden Baden. Journey times will be extended by 60 to 90 minutes. Some trains from the north will terminate at Mannheim or Karlsruhe, where passengers must change onto another train for the short hop down to Rastatt, in order there to change onto a bus for Baden Baden. 

Platform capacity and facilities at Rastatt and Baden Baden are limited and, with quite large crowds expected at both stations, passengers will need to be patient. 

These are the main routes affected: 

  • ICE, IC or EC trains from Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt-am-Main (Hbf and Airport), Hamburg, Hannover, Kassel, Koblenz, Mainz, Mannheim to Baden Baden, Freiburg, Basel and destinations in Switzerland.

Note that no Swiss-bound trains from Germany will run beyond Basel SBB station. Passengers from Germany bound for Berne, Interlaken, Zürich and all other Swiss destinations will therefore need, when routing though Basel, to make an additional change of train at that station. 

D. Black Forest regional services

The hourly regional trains from Karlsruhe to Konstanz via the Schwarzwaldbahn (Black Forest Railway) are running only between Baden Baden and Konstanz. Passengers from Karlsruhe will need to travel by local train to Rastatt, then by bus to Baden Baden to pick up their onward train to Triberg, Singen and Konstanz. The InterCity service from Karlsruhe to Konstanz (which is actually very sparse) is completely suspended. 

No other services in the Black Forest area are affected. 

E. Creative alternatives

This all adds up to a fairly bleak picture for travelling through the Baden Baden area. It may be worth rethinking your journey and exploring possible alternatives. 

Our view is that for journeys from Paris to southern Germany, the diversion of many services via the Saarland (instead of Strasbourg) is no great inconvenience and merely adds up to an hour to the journey time. 

The cancellation of night sleeper services from Zürich to Germany is a blow, and affected passengers may consider travelling from Zürich to either Innsbruck or Munich, from where there are direct NightJet trains to northern Germany (though not to Berlin). 

Travellers making long north-south journeys might be well advised to avoid the Rhine Valley route altogether. If travelling from Berlin to Zürich, for example, it may be more convenient to route through Munich. Those heading from Amsterdam or Brussels to Basel who might normally have opted for the Rhine Valley route (via Cologne and Karlsruhe) might now find faster itineraries via Paris.

If you are heading from Cologne, Frankfurt (or anywhere else in central Germany) to Strasbourg or other destinations in Alsace, consider travelling via Lauterbourg or Wissembourg instead of the Franco-German border crossing at Kehl.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
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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 was published in 2022 and reprinted in July 2023. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.


Jason , 24 August 2017

Thank you very much for this. You provide better infomation than the Deutsche Bahn. I am very sorry to see that the night train from Freiburg to Berlin is not running while the work is being done near Baden Baden. Could it not have been routed via a different route, for example from Freiburg via Basel and Zürich to Munich and Berlin? I would have liked to have seen some more imagination from the rail operators in offering alternatives that do not require changing to buses.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries, 24 August 2017

@Anthony Williams: Thank you for your comment. You are of course absolutely right that the TER service on the west bank of the Rhine is running normally. And we make mention of the services from Lauterbourg and Wissembourg to Strasbourg. We cannot quite see how the link from Strasbourg to Basel that you mention is of any help, though, in avoiding the line blockade north of Baden-Baden. That line closure is on the east bank of the Rhine and quite some way downriver from Strasbourg. Nicky & Susanne

Anthony Williams, 23 August 2017

You have omitted to mention that it is possible to travel on the hourly ter Alsace service from Strasbourg to Basel (via Colmar and Mulhouse) through France!

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