Long-future for long-distance travel

Posted: 3 April 2007 | | No comments yet

The European rail network is becoming increasingly integrated and, with its attractive range of long-distance passenger services, Deutsche Bahn is one of the principal players.

The European rail network is becoming increasingly integrated and, with its attractive range of long-distance passenger services, Deutsche Bahn is one of the principal players.

The European rail network is becoming increasingly integrated and, with its attractive range of long-distance passenger services, Deutsche Bahn is one of the principal players.

The construction of new infrastructure which has led to shorter journey times as well as the liberalisation of the rail transport markets has accelerated this trend even further. As a result, rail will replace the aeroplane as the major transport mode on many important routes. Deutsche Bahn is absolutely determined to exploit the potential of the international long-distance passenger transport market, to attract new customers and substantially expand its international operations.

No other EU Member State has as many neighbouring countries as Germany, and no other railway crosses as many borders as DB AG. Day in, day out, 35,000 passengers use our international long-distance trains to travel to other countries, or come to Germany from neighbouring countries. Cross-border traffic already makes a substantial contribution to our overall revenues. Almost 100 cities in 20 different countries can now be reached conveniently by ICE, EuroCity, Nachtzug or Autozug without the need to change trains. On several routes, we have deployed new rolling stock over the past few years, reduced journey times, introduced attractive fares and harmonised timetables and products in cooperation with our neighbouring railways.

The ICE from Frankfurt/Main to Paris will go into operation in June 2007; in return, the TGV will come to Germany, on the Paris-Stuttgart line. Deutsche Bahn and SNCF, the French railway, have joined forces to develop an impressive product that will also encourage airline customers to switch to rail.

Fast mobility beyond national borders

Journey times between both Frankfurt and Paris and also Stuttgart and Paris will be reduced by approximately 40%, to less than four hours. When transfers and airport procedures are taken into account, this means that rail now offers competitive journey times compared with air. Moreover, international passengers enjoy more comfort on board and have the freedom to use the travelling time as they please. Our forecasts predict that 30% of our future passengers between Frankfurt and Paris will be people who have switched from plane to rail.

Subject to the approval of the European competition authorities, SNCF and Deutsche Bahn will market both these routes together in the form of a joint venture. An introductory product will be launched in June 2007 and, as from December, there will be four direct daily TGV connections been Stuttgart and Paris and five direct daily ICE connections between Frankfurt and Paris.

The train crews deployed to and from Paris will be tri-lingual. This is also the first time that train personnel from both DB and SNCF will serve customers on these two routes. BahnCard holders will now be entitled to discounts on the French sections of both routes.

The extremely complicated retrofitting of ICE for the French high-speed network and a comprehensive test programme have already proved that even technical differences are not insurmountable.

The ICE is well established as a European brand

While the ICE will celebrate its premiere in Paris in 2007, it is already a familiar sight in Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna and Zurich. In recent years, Deutsche Bahn has steadily introduced its premium product in important foreign markets: Switzerland ranks first in that list, followed by Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. We also cooperate successfully with other European railways, such as the Dutch NS on the ICE route Frankfurt-Cologne-Amsterdam, where we operate a joint route management system with a pool of vehicles. Our passengers experience the ICE product regardless of whether they travel on a DB or NS train, guaranteeing a consistently high standard of comfort.

At the end of 2007, Deutsche Bahn will introduce a similar model on the Frankfurt/Main – Passau – Linz – Vienna line. In cooperation with the Austrian federal railways, ÖBB, we shall replace the previous conventional EuroCity services with an ICE service running at attractive two-hourly intervals.

In 2006, we set up a joint marketing company, ‘Rheinalp’ with registered office in Freiburg, together with our partner railway SBB in order to expand cross-border services between Germany and Switzerland. Thanks to innovative marketing concepts, we succeeded in attracting new customers in both the business and tourism segments last year.

Further improvements to our services are to follow. As from the end of 2008, we shall offer the first ICE link from Frankfurt/Main to Brussels which takes less than three hours, which is roughly 40 minutes faster than the present product. As from 2010, a rail journey from Frankfurt to London will take just four hours, 40 minutes. Deutsche Bahn is linking up Europe!

Every single case will be examined to decide whether cooperative or competitive products should be offered. However, our performance will initially depend on whether we succeed in winning market shares from the private car and air sectors. This also means that we have to guarantee high quality standards on cross-border services. That is why Deutsche Bahn also supports the establishment of the international quality alliance ‘Railteam’, a cooperative project between seven partner railways – DB, SBB, ÖBB, SNCF, SNCB, NS and Eurostar. The overriding target is to harmonise quality standards. We wish to develop services which do not end at the national borders. Railway can only exploit its full market potential throughout Europe if it offers an attractive range of products over and beyond the national borders.

I am confident that rail in Europe looks forward to a brilliant future.

About the author

Dr. Nikolaus Breuel has been Chairman of DB Fernverkehr AG with registered office in Frankfurt am Main since 2004. The company has 14,000 employees and generates annual sales of approximately €3 billion.