Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

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Deutsche Bahn Pushes For More Rail Investment as Ridership Surges

1 year ago

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn expects a very good year in 2023. Ridership on its long-distance trains is forecast to be “well over” 150 million passengers, exceeding the peak before the pandemic of 150.7 million riders, CEO Richard Lutz said Thursday.

But while that outlook shows the strong demand for travel and resilience of rail in the post-pandemic world, it also highlights the limits of Deutsche Bahn’s network — once a leader in Europe. On-time performance of its long-distance trains dropped to a historic low of 65 percent as travelers flooded back, the operator said. For comparison, 76 percent of Deutsche Bahn’s trains were on time in 2019 when they carried 12 percent more riders.

Lutz used the operational situation to call for Germany to “change course and approach the renovation and modernization of [rail] infrastructure in a completely different way.”

An ICE 3neo high-speed train
A new ICE 3neo train. (DB AG)

Last year, Deutsche Bahn carried 132 million travelers on its long-distance trains. While still below pre-pandemic levels, ridership hit records during the summer — when the so-called 9 euro ticket on local and regional trains attracted people in droves to the system — and over the Christmas holiday. The operator opened a new high-speed rail line on a section between Stuttgart and Munich, and introduced new high-spreed trains, dubbed the ICE 3neo, in December. Deutsche Bahn also signed on as the Star Alliance’s first intermodal partner, and saw an increase in the number of passengers connecting between trains and planes.

“Climate-friendly mobility is booming,” Lutz said. “The demand is right and is currently growing strongly. This spurs us on to become better for our customers as quickly as possible – because Germany deserves a railway that is more efficient and punctual.”

Airlines

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn Sees Jump in Air-Rail Passenger Numbers

1 year ago

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn saw demand for connections between its trains and flights operated by Lufthansa increase 25 percent last year. The increase comes after the railroad and airline expanded their partnership, including more direct trains to the Frankfurt airport, in 2021.

“Where aviation and rail cooperate, we record double-digit growth rates,” said Michael Peterson, the head of Deutsche Bahn’s long-distance rail division that includes high-speed ICE trains, on Monday. “Our expanded feeder services to the largest German airport in Frankfurt am Main are part of this success.”

While Deutsche Bahn did not release passenger numbers, it said demand for these joint air-rail itineraries — or travelers who book both a flight and train connection on a single ticket — fully recovered from the pandemic by October 2021, and then grew in 2022. The data does not include travelers who bought flight and train tickets separately.

Lufthansa has previously said that it sold roughly 575,000 joint air-rail tickets with Deutsche Bahn in 2019.

(Deutsche Bahn)

Increasing the use of rail and ground transport over flights is a big push in Europe’s efforts to cut carbon emissions. France has banned short flights on routes where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less, while airlines and rail operators in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland have all unveiled expanded partnerships in recent years. Deutsche Bahn, which has partnered with Lufthansa since the 1980s, even plans to join the global airline confab, Star Alliance, as its first intermodal partner.

However, major challenges remain, many related to the passenger experience and physical infrastructure. Wayfinding between flights and trains is limited at some airports, making the transfer experience potentially difficult for those unfamiliar with the process. And, outside of key high-speed rail routes in Western Europe, trains often take significantly longer than the flights they compete with.

Deutsche Bahn, in its statement Monday, highlighted the need for more infrastructure investment in order to expand the number of air-rail passengers. A new high-speed line between Munich and Stuttgart that opened in December will eventually link the Stuttgart airport, and the operator said a high-speed rail link to the Munich airport was needed in the future.

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France and Germany Promise Direct Paris-Berlin Trains From 2024

2 years ago

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday unveiled plans for a high-speed train route connecting their respective capitals, Paris and Berlin, beginning next year.

“As a tangible initiative illustrating our will to push forward on decarbonizing our economies and our societies, as well as our cross-border links, we support the deployment of the high-speed train route between Paris and Berlin, as well as the night train liaison, both announced for 2024,” they said in a joint statement. They did not provide additional details, for example which country’s rail operator — France’s SNCF or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn — would operate the planned service.

TGV and ICE trains at Munich station
A French TGV and German ICE train at the Munich station. (Deutsche Bahn)

A direct Paris-Berlin high-speed rail service would eliminate the need for travelers to change trains in either Cologne or Frankfurt. However, as rail blogger Alon Levy noted, without additional infrastructure improvements the new direct service will likely take about the 8 hours in travel, or about the same as the current connecting services.

Flights between Paris and Berlin take roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

Deutsche Bahn and SNCF operate 24 trains between France and Germany daily, according to the latter’s website. Trains directly connect Paris and other French cities with Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and other German cities.

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Germany to Open New Fast Rail Line Between Munich and Stuttgart

2 years ago

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will reduce travel times between Munich and Stuttgart to under two hours when a new high-speed rail line opens in December.

The 37-mile (60 kilometer) Wendlingen–Ulm high-speed line will open on December 11, Deutsche Bahn said Thursday. The new line will reduce trip times between Munich and Stuttgart by about 15 minutes, or to as little as 1 hour and 57 minutes based on current schedules.

An ICE test train on the new Wendlingen–Ulm high-speed rail line. (Deutsche Bahn/Volker Emersleben)

The line opening comes as Germany and other European countries encourage rail travel as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Last summer, Germany’s “9 Euro ticket,” as it was called, proved a popular success getting more people to use trains and buses for local and regional journeys. The country will roll out a new $50 (€49) monthly pass in January in response to the popularity of the 9 Euro ticket.

Shifting travelers from planes to trains is another part of Europe’s effort to reduce carbon emissions. As part of that effort, Deutsche Bahn will become the first rail member of a global airline alliance, the Star Alliance, as well as expand its airline partnerships. In France, the government has gone as far as to ban flights on short routes where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less.

Airlines

Deutsche Bahn Is Star Alliance’s First Rail Partner

2 years ago

Travelers eager for easier flight-to-train connections are about to get their wish in Germany. The global airline partnership network Star Alliance and the German rail company Deutsche Bahn are set to unveil a “new intermodal partnership” on July 4.

While details are scant, a media invite to the event said the partnership aims to make it easier for people to travel on joint flight-and-train itineraries. The announcement comes a month after Star CEO Jeffrey Goh hinted at an “intermodal” partner, and suggested that it would be a railroad.

A Deutsche Bahn ICE train at the Frankfurt airport. (dmytrok/Flickr)

Airlines and railroads around the world have taken renewed interest in air-rail partnerships in recent years. Air France, Lufthansa, and Swiss have expanded their tie ups with rail operators in their respective home countries, and Iberia has formed a new partnership with Spanish rail operator Renfe.

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Germany’s Deutsche Bahn to Run More Summer Trains Than in 2019

2 years ago

Germany’s passenger rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) will run more long-distance trains this summer than it did before the pandemic in response to strong demand.

DB will offer 20 percent more seats than it did in the summer of 2019, it said Saturday. The increase is both from operating more trains, and from the introduction of more “extra-large” ICE high-speed trains that seat roughly 1,000 passengers each.

(Georg Wagner/DB AG)

The extra long-distance trains come as Germany anticipates record transport ridership this summer under the three-month “9 euro ticket,” or pass, that covers all regional and suburban trains. In May, the head of DB’s long-distance rail division Michael Peterson said ridership that month was roughly 5 percent higher than in 2019.

“This summer, the desire to travel is greater than ever,” Peterson said in a statement Saturday.