ICE - InterCity Express

Intercity Express - ICE

The Intercity-Express (written as InterCityExpress in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and, formerly, in Germany) or ICE is a system of high-speed trains predominantly running in Germany and its surrounding countries. It is the highest service category offered by DB Fernverkehr and is the flagship of Deutsche Bahn. The brand name "ICE" is among the best-known in Germany, with a brand awareness close to 100%, according to DB. There are currently 259 trainsets in five different versions of the ICE vehicles in use, named ICE 1 (deployed in 1991), ICE 2 (1996), ICE T (1999), ICE 3 (1999) and ICE TD (2001–2003, back in service 2007). The ICE 3, including its variant models, is made by a consortium led by Bombardier and Siemens.

Procurement of a further version, ICx, began c. 2008, and was rebranded ICE 4 in late 2015. Introduction of the trains are expected from 2016.

Apart from domestic use, the trains can also be seen in countries neighbouring Germany. There are, for example, ICE 1 lines to Basel and Zurich. ICE 3 trains also run to Liège and Brussels and at lower speeds to Amsterdam. On 10 June 2007, a new line between Paris and Frankfurt/Stuttgart was opened, jointly operated by ICE and TGV trains. ICE trains to London via the Channel Tunnel are planned for 2018. While ICE 3M trains operate the Paris-Frankfurt service (with the exception of trains 9553/9552, which operate with TGV Duplex equipment and are cross-crewed with both SNCF and DB staff), SNCF's TGV runs from Paris to Munich (via Stuttgart), with mixed crews on both trains. German and Austrian ICE T trains run to Vienna. On 9 December 2007, the ICE TD was introduced on the service from Berlin via Hamburg to the Danish cities of Aarhus and Copenhagen.

The Spanish railway operator RENFE also employs trains based on the ICE 3 (Siemens Velaro) called AVE Class 103 which are certified to run at speeds up to 350 km/h. Wider versions were ordered by China for the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway link (CRH 3) and by Russia for the Moscow – Saint Petersburg and Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod routes (Velaro RUS).

History of the ICE

ICE Overview

The Deutsche Bundesbahn started a series of trials in 1985 using the InterCityExperimental (also called ICE-V) test train. The IC Experimental was used as a showcase train and for high-speed trials, setting a new world speed record at 406.9 km/h (253 mph) on 1 May 1988. The train was retired in 1996 and replaced with a new trial unit, called the ICE S.

After extensive discussion between the Bundesbahn and the Ministry of Transport regarding onboard equipment, length and width of the train and the number of trainsets required, a first batch of 41 units was ordered in 1988. The order was extended to 60 units in 1990, with German reunification in mind. However, not all trains could be delivered in time.

The ICE network was officially inaugurated on 29 May 1991 with several vehicles converging on the newly built station Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe from different directions.

Type           Production   Number   vmax [km/h]  In Service         Status
InterCity      1983–1985    1         350      1985–2000          retired
Experimental                                     (measurement and
(also ICE/V)                                      test drives)

ICE 1           1989–1993    60         280      since 1990         59 in service
ICE 2           1995–1997    46         280      since 1996         44 in service
(also ICE R)   1996        1         280/330      since 1997         in service for measurement and test drives
ICE T           1996–2005    71         230      since 1999         70 in service (67 with DB, 3 with ÖBB)
DB Class 403
(“ICE 3”)      1997–2006    50         330      since 2000         all in service
DB Class 406 
(ICE 3M / 
ICE 3MF)       1997–2006    17         330      since 2000         16 in service (13 with DB, 3 with NS)
Metropolitan   1998–1999    2         220      “ICE” branded: 2004–06/2005, 12/2005–2006, since 2009    both in service
ICE TD           1998–2000    20         200      since 2001         12 in service
Velaro D 
(also called 
ICE 3 by DB)   2009–2012    17         320      since 2013         8 in service
ICE 4           since 2014   130      230/250      2017 planned         under construction

ICE First Generation

The first ICE trains were the trainsets of ICE 1 (power cars: Class 401), which came into service in 1989. The first regularly scheduled ICE trains ran from 2 June 1991 from Hamburg-Altona via Hamburg Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf and Stuttgart Hbf toward München Hbf at hourly intervals on the new ICE line 6. The Hanover-Würzburg line and the Mannheim-Stuttgart line, which had both opened the same year, were hence integrated into the ICE network from the very beginning.

Due to the lack of trainsets in 1991 and early 1992, the ICE line 4 (Bremen Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Würzburg Hbf – Nürnberg Hbf – München Hbf) couldn't start operating until 1 June 1992. Prior to that date, ICE trainsets were used when available and were integrated in the Intercity network and with IC tariffs.

In 1993, the ICE line 6's terminus was moved from Hamburg to Berlin (later, in 1998, via the Hanover-Berlin line and the former IC line 3 from Hamburg-Altona via Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf – Karlsruhe Hbf – Freiburg Hbf to Basel SBB was upgraded to ICE standards as a replacement).

ICE Second Generation

From 1997, the successor, the ICE 2 trains pulled by Class 402 powerheads, was put into service. One of the goals of the ICE 2 was to improve load balancing by building smaller train units which could be coupled or detached as needed.

These trainsets were used on the ICE line 10 Berlin-Cologne/Bonn. However, since the driving van trailers of the trains were still awaiting approval, the DB joined two portions (with one powerhead each) to form a long train, similar to the ICE 1. Only from 24 May 1998 were the ICE 2 units fully equipped with driving van trailers and could be portioned on their run from Hamm via either Dortmund Hbf – Essen Hbf – Duisburg Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf or Hagen Hbf – Wuppertal Hbf – Solingen-Ohligs.

In late 1998, the Hanover-Berlin high-speed rail line was opened as the third high-speed line in Germany, cutting travel time on line 10 (between Berlin and the Ruhr valley) by 2½ hours.

The ICE 1 and ICE 2 trains' loading gauge exceeds that recommended by the international railway organisation UIC. Even though the trains were originally to be used only domestically, some units are licensed to run in Switzerland and Austria. Some ICE 1 units have been equipped with an additional smaller pantograph to be able to run on the different Swiss overhead wire geometry. All ICE 1 and ICE 2 trains are single-voltage 15 kV AC, which restricts their radius of operation largely to the German-speaking countries of Europe. ICE 2 trains can run at a top speed of 174 mph (280 km/h).

ICE Third Generation

To overcome the restrictions imposed on the ICE 1 and ICE 2, their successor, the ICE 3, was built to a smaller loading gauge to permit usability throughout the European standard gauge network (except the UK non-highspeed network) . Unlike their predecessors, the ICE 3 units are built not as locomotive-pulled trains (albeit aerodynamically optimised), but as electric multiple units with underfloor motors throughout. This also reduced the load per axle and enabled the ICE 3 to comply with the pertinent UIC standard.

Two different classes were developed: the Class 403 (domestic ICE 3) and the Class 406 (ICE 3M), the M standing for Mehrsystem (multi-system). The trains were labelled and marketed as the Velaro by their manufacturer, Siemens.

Just like the ICE 2, the ICE 3 and the ICE 3M were developed as half-length trains (when compared to an ICE 1) and are able to travel in portions, with individual units running on different lines, then being coupled to travel together. Since the ICE 3 trains are the only ones able to run on the Köln-Frankfurt high-speed line with its 4.0% incline, they are used predominantly on services that utilise this line.

Deutsche Bahn has ordered another 16 units – worth € 495 million – for international traffic, especially to France.

The newest high-speed line in Germany, the Nuremberg-Ingolstadt high-speed rail line, which opened in May 2006, is the most recent addition to the ICE network. It is one of only two lines in Germany (the other being the Cologne to Frankfurt line) that are equipped for a line speed of 300 km/h. Since only 3rd generation ICE trains can travel at this speed, the ICE line 41, formerly running from Essen Hbf via Duisburg Hbf – Frankfurt Südbf to Nürnberg Hbf, was extended over the Nuremberg-Ingolstadt high-speed rail line and today the service run is Oberhausen Hbf – Duisburg Hbf – Frankfurt Hbf – Nürnberg Hbf – Ingolstadt Hbf – München Hbf.

The ICE 3 runs at speeds up to 320 km/h (198 mph) on the LGV Est railway Strasbourg – Paris in France.+

The latest generation ICE 3, Class 407, is known as the New ICE 3, and is part of the Siemens Velaro family with the model designation Velaro D. It currently runs on many services in Germany and through to other countries like France. These trains were meant for the planned Deutsche Bahn services through the channel tunnel to London. Due to delay in the delivery of the new Velaro D rolling stock the London service was cancelled.

ICE Fourth Generation

Procurement of ICx trainsets started c.2008 as replacements for locomotive hauled InterCity and EuroCity train services- the scope was later expanded to include replacements for ICE 1 and ICE 2 trainsets. In 2011 Siemens AG was awarded the contract for 130 seven car intercity train replacements, and 90 ten car ICE train replacements, plus further options - the contract for the ten car sets was modified 2013 to expand the trainset length to twelve vehicles. The name ICx was used for the trains during the initial stages of the procurement; in late 2015 the trains were rebranded ICE 4, at the unveiling of the first trainset, and given the class designation 412 by Deutsche Bahn.

Two pre-production trainsets were manufactured and used for testing prior to introduction of the main series.


Simultaneously with the ICE 3, Siemens developed trains with tilting technology, using much of the ICE 3 technical design. The class 411 (seven cars) and 415 (five cars) ICE T EMUs and class 605 ICE TD DMUs (four cars) were built with a similar interior and exterior design. They were specially designed for older railway lines not suitable for high speeds, for example the twisting lines in Thuringia. ICE-TD has diesel traction. ICE-T and ICE-TD can be operated jointly, but this is not done routinely.


A total of 60 class 411 and 11 class 415 have been built so far (units built after 2004 belong to the modified second generation ICE-T2 batch). Both classes work reliably. Austria's ÖBB purchased three units in 2007, operating them jointly with DB. It might be worth noting that even though DB assigned the name ICE-T to class 411/415, the T originally did not stand for tilting, but for Triebwagen (railcar), as DB's marketing department at first deemed the top speed too low for assignment of the InterCityExpress brand and therefore planned to refer to this class as IC-T (InterCity-Triebwagen). The trainsets of the T series were manufactured in 1999. The tilting system has been provided by Fiat Ferroviaria, now part of Alstom. ICE T trains can run at speeds of up to 140 mph (230 km/h).


Rather ill-fated was the adoption of diesel services. In 2001, a total of 20 units were commissioned for use on the Dresden-Munich and Munich-Zurich lines, but these class 605 (ICE-TD) units experienced trouble from the start so the trains were mothballed. During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, they were used for supplemental services. Their top speed is 125 mph (200 km/h). They are expensive to use within Germany since full diesel tax must be paid. Starting at the end of 2007, the class 605 has been deployed on the Hamburg-Copenhagen route. This route, using the Fehmarn Belt train ferry needs diesel trains for both the railway and the ferry, as neither has an electric supply. Later the Hamburg-Aarhus started to use these trains. The Danish railway currently has a severe shortage of long-distance diesel trains since their new IC4, with features similar to the ICE-TD, has also been ill-fated and severely delayed in delivery. The ICE-TD can have lower operational cost for this traffic, since diesel for train usage has lower tax in Denmark, and the trains fill their tanks there.


ICE Decoration

A notable characteristic of the ICE trains is their colour design, which has been registered by the DB as an aesthetic model and hence is protected as intellectual property. The trains are painted in Pale Grey (RAL 7035) with a Traffic Red (RAL 3020) stripe on the lower part of the vehicle. The continuous black band of windows and their oval door windows differentiate the ICEs from any other DB train.

The ICE 1 and ICE 2 units originally had an Orient Red (RAL 3031) stripe, accompanied by a Pastel Violet stripe below (RAL 4009, 26 cm wide). These stripes were repainted with the current Traffic Red between 1998 and 2000, when all ICE units were being checked and repainted in anticipation of the EXPO 2000.

The "ICE" lettering uses the colour Agate Grey (RAL 7038), the frame is painted in Quartz Grey (RAL 7039). The plastic platings in the interior all utilise the Pale Grey (RAL 7035) colour tone. Originally, the ICE 1 interior was designed in pastel tones with an emphasis on mint, following the DB colour scheme of the day. The ICE 1 trains were refurbished in the mid-2000s, however, and now follow the same design as the ICE 3, which makes heavy usage of indirect lighting and wooden furnishings.

The distinctive ICE design was developed by a team of designers around Alexander Neumeister in the early 1980s and first used on the InterCityExperimental (ICE V). The team around Neumeister then designed the ICE 1, ICE 2, and ICE 3/T/TD. The interior of the trains was designed by Jens Peters working for BPR-Design in Stuttgart. Among others, he was responsible for the heightened roof in the restaurant car and the special lighting. The same team also developed the design for the now discontinued InterRegio trains in the mid-1980s.

Differences in ICE Train Layouts

ICE (generally):

  • Pale grey livery with red stripe and convoluted rubber gaiters between carriages (distinctive from all other DB trains)
  • Black window band with oval door windows (distinctive from Intercity / Metropolitan cars)
  • Wheels-on-rails technology (distinctive from the Transrapid)

ICE 1:

  • Two power heads and up to 14 intermediate cars; restaurant car with high roof; nose with DB logo that interrupts red stripe (unique to the ICE 1); maximum speed is 174 mph (280 km/h).

ICE 2:

  • One power head and one driving van trailer accessible to passengers; BordRestaurant/Bistro car has same height as other cars; contrary to ICE 1: nose is vertically divisible, parts of the coupler protruding to the outside; maximum speed is 174 miles per hour (280 km/h).

ICE 3:    

  • No power heads, but an EMU: end cars with rounded windshield and passenger lounge, unpowered transformer car with pantograph; maximum speed of 198 miles per hour (320 km/h), red stripe is interrupted at the end cars by ICE logo, then runs downwards and across the nose lid; window band becomes narrow and ends near the windshield.

ICE T/TD:    

  • Similar to ICE 3, except: steeper front; pantograph; maximum speed of 140 mph (230 km/h); no ICE logo on end coaches (ICE T)/ aerodynamic cover on end cars; maximum speed of 125 miles per hour (200 km/h). ICE logo on the left side of the end coaches (ICE TD); red stripe stays straight; red stripe ends near the lamps; windows narrows to a point instead of a flat end as on the ICE 3

ICE T2:    

  • Like ICE T series 1, except: painted sheet metal instead of glass between windows, front lamps with LEDs

ICE V:    

  • Violet, wide stripe runs deeper than on newer stock and does not continue over the nose lid; Deutsche Bundesbahn logo and preliminary ICE logo; clad rubber gaiters; power heads larger than intermediate cars and with rounder front; front hedge ICE 2-like since 1995

ICE S:    

  • ICE logo with additional letter "S" in white; most have only one intermediate coach; high-voltage lines between carriages; maximum speed is 206 miles per hour (330 km/h)

Trainset Numbers

While every car in an ICE train has its own unique registration number, the trains usually remain coupled as fixed trainsets for several years. For easier reference, each has been assigned a trainset number that is printed over each bogie of every car. These numbers usually correspond with the registration numbers of the powerheads or cab cars.

ICE 1:    

  • Tz 01 to 20    traction motors use thyristor frequency converters
  • Tz 51 to 71    traction motors use GTO frequency converters
  • Tz 72 to 90    GTO control, fitted for service into Switzerland

ICE 2:    

  • Tz 201 to 244

ICE 3:    

  • Tz 301 to 337    first series
  • Tz 351 to 367    second series

ICE 3M:    

  • Tz 4601 to 4613    7 trainsets, numbers intermittent
  • Tz 4651 to 4654    owned by NS Hispeed

ICE 3MF:    

  • Tz 4680 to 4684    refitted for service into France

ICE 3MF:    

  • Tz 4685    refitted for service into France, and the United Kingdom via the Channel Tunnel

ICE T:    

  • Tz 1101 to 1132    first series
  • 7 cars Tz 1151 to 1178    second series
  •  Tz 1180 to 1184    refitted for service into Switzerland
  •  Tz 1190 to 1192    sold to ÖBB

ICE T:     

  • Tz 1501 to 1506
  • 5 cars Tz 1520 to 1524    originally fitted for service into Switzerland, cab cars switched with Tz 1180 to 1184

ICE TD:    

  • Tz 5501 to 5520    

Interior Equipment

The ICE trains adhere to a high standard of technology: all cars are fully air-conditioned and nearly every seat features a headphone jack which enables the passenger to listen to several on-board music and voice programmes as well as several radio stations. Some seats in the 1st class section (in some trains also in 2nd class) are equipped with video displays showing movies and pre-recorded infotainment programmes. Each train is equipped with special cars that feature in-train repeaters for improved mobile phone reception as well as designated quiet zones where the use of mobile phones is discouraged. The newer ICE 3 trains also have larger digital displays in all coaches, displaying, among other things, Deutsche Bahn advertising, the predicted arrival time at the next destination and the current speed of the train.

The ICE 1 was originally equipped with a passenger information system based on BTX, however this system was eventually taped over and removed in the later refurbishment. The ICE 3 trains feature touch screen terminals in some carriages, enabling travellers to print train timetables. The system is also located in the restaurant car of the ICE 2.

The ICE 1 fleet saw a major overhaul between 2005 and 2008, supposed to extend the lifetime of the trains by another 15 to 20 years. Seats and the interior design were adapted to the ICE 3 design, electric sockets were added to every seat, the audio and video entertainment systems were removed and electronic seat reservation indicators were added above the seats. The ICE 2 trains have been undergoing the same procedure since 2010.

ICE 2 trains feature electric sockets at selected seats, ICE 3 and ICE T trains have sockets at nearly every seat.

The ICE 3 and ICE T are similar in their interior design, but the other ICE types differ in their original design. The ICE 1, the ICE 2 and seven-car ICE T (Class 411) are equipped with a full restaurant car. The five-car ICE T (Class 415) and ICE 3 however, have been designed without a restaurant, they feature a bistro coach instead. Since 1 October 2006, smoking is prohibited in the bistro coaches, similar to the restaurant cars, which have always been non-smoking.

All trains feature a disabled toilet and wheelchair spaces. The ICE 1 and ICE 2 have a special conference compartment whilst the ICE 3 features a compartment suitable for small children. The ICE 3 and ICE T omit the usual train manager's compartment and have an open counter named "ServicePoint" instead.

An electronic display above each seat indicates the locations between which the seat has been reserved. Passengers without reservations are permitted to take seats with a blank display or seats with no reservation on the current section.

ICE Maintenance

The ICE maintenance schedule of the trains is divided into seven steps:

Every 4,000 kilometres, an inspection taking about 1½ hours is undertaken. The waste collection tanks are emptied and fresh water tanks are refilled. Acute defects (e.g. malfunctioning doors) are rectified. Furthermore, safety tests are conducted. These include checking the pantograph pressure, cleaning and checking for fissures in the rooftop insulators, inspecting transformers and checking the pantograph's current collector for wear. The wheels are also checked in this inspection.
Every 20,000 kilometres, a 2½ hour inspection is conducted, called Nachschau. In this inspection, the brakes, the Linienzugbeeinflussung systems and the anti-lock brakes are checked as well.
After 80,000 kilometres, the train undergoes the Inspektionsstufe 1. During the two modules, each lasting eight hours, the brakes receive a thorough check, as well as the air conditioning and the kitchen equipment. The batteries are checked, as well as the seats and the passenger information system.
Once the train has reached 240,000 kilometres, the Inspektionsstufe 2 mandates a check of the electric motors, the bearings and the driveshafts of the bogies and the couplers. This inspection is usually carried out in two modules taking eight hours each.
About once a year (when reaching 480,000 km), the Inspektionsstufe 3 takes place, at three times eight hours each. In addition to the other checkup phases, it includes checks on the pneumatics systems, and the transformer cooling. Maintenance work is performed inside the passenger compartment.
The 1st Revision is carried out after 1.2 million km. It includes a thorough check of all components of the train and is carried out in two five-day segments.
The seventh and final step is the 2nd Revision, which happens when reaching 2.4 million kilometres. The bogies are exchanged for new ones and many components of the train are disassembled and checked. This step also takes two five-day segments.

Maintenance on the ICE trains is carried out in special ICE workshops located in Basel, Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich. The train is worked upon at up to four levels at a time and fault reports are sent to the workshops in advance by the on-board computer system to keep maintenance time at a minimum.

ICE Route Planning and Network Layout

The ICE system is a polycentric network. Connections are offered in either 30-minute, hourly or bi-hourly intervals. Furthermore, additional services run during peak times, and some services call at lesser stations during off-peak times.

Unlike the French TGV or the Japanese Shinkansen systems, the vehicles, tracks and operations were not designed as an integrated whole; rather, the ICE system has been integrated into Germany's pre-existing system of railway lines instead. One of the effects of this is that the ICE 3 trains can reach a speed of 300 km/h (186 mph) only on some stretches of line and cannot currently reach their maximum allowed speed of 330 km/h on German railway lines (though a speed of 320 km/h is reached by ICE 3 in France).

The line most heavily utilised by ICE trains is the Mannheim–Frankfurt railway between Frankfurt and Mannheim due to the bundling of many ICE lines in that region. When considering all traffic (freight, local and long distance passenger), the busiest line carrying ICE traffic is the Munich–Augsburg line, carrying about 300 trains per day.

ICE North-South Connections

The ICE network's main backbone consists of six north-south lines:

  • from Hamburg-Altona via Hamburg Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda Bf – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf either via Karlsruhe Hbf – Freiburg Bf to Basel SBB (ICE line 20) or straight to Stuttgart Hbf (ICE line 22)
  • from Hamburg-Altona – Hamburg Hbf and Bremen Hbf via Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda Bf – Würzburg Hbf either via Nürnberg Hbf – Ingolstadt Hbf or Donauwörth Bf – Augsburg Hbf to München Hbf (ICE line 25)
  • from Hamburg-Altona via Hamburg Hbf – Berlin-Spandau – Berlin Hbf – Berlin Südkreuz – Leipzig Hbf – Nürnberg Hbf either via Augsburg Hbf or Ingolstadt Hbf to München Hbf (ICE line 28)
  • from Berlin Ostbf via Berlin Hbf – Berlin-Spandau – Braunschweig Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda Bf – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf either via Karlsruhe Hbf – Freiburg Bf to Basel SBB (ICE line 12) or via Stuttgart Hbf – Ulm Hbf – Augsburg Hbf to München Hbf (ICE line 11)
  • from Amsterdam Centraal or Dortmund Hbf via Duisburg Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf – Köln Hbf – Frankfurt Flughafen – Mannheim Hbf either via Karlsruhe Hbf – Freiburg Bf to Basel SBB (ICE line 43) or via Stuttgart Hbf – Ulm Hbf – Augsburg Hbf to München Hbf (ICE line 42)
  • from Amsterdam Centraal – Duisburg Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf (ICE line 78) or Brussels-South – Aachen Hbf (ICE line 79) via Köln Hbf – Frankfurt Flughafen – Frankfurt Hbf – Würzburg Hbf – Nürnberg Hbf to München Hbf (passes, but does not call at Ingolstadt Hbf, ICE line 41)

ICE East-West Connections

Furthermore, the ICE network has four main East-West thoroughfares:

  • from Berlin Gesundbrunnen via Berlin Hbf – Berlin Südkreuz – Hamburg Hbf – Hamburg Dammtor – Hamburg Altona (ICE line 6)
  • from Berlin Ostbf via Berlin Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Bielefeld Hbf – Hamm (Westfalen) either via Dortmund Hbf – Essen Hbf – Duisburg Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf to Köln/Bonn Flughafen or via Hagen Hbf – Wuppertal Hbf – Solingen Hbf – Köln Hbf to Bonn Hbf (ICE line 10, train partitions in Hamm)
  • from Dresden Hbf (with some trains from Berlin Gesundbrunnen) via Leipzig Hbf – Erfurt Hbf – Fulda Bf – Frankfurt Hbf either via Frankfurt Flughafen – Mainz Hbf to Wiesbaden Hbf or (off-peak services) via Darmstadt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf – Kaiserslautern Hbf to Saarbrücken Hbf (ICE line 50, train partitions in Frankfurt Hbf)
  • from Dresden Hbf via Leipzig Hbf – Erfurt Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Paderborn Hbf – Dortmund Hbf – Essen Hbf – Duisburg Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf to Köln Hbf (IC/ICE line 51)

ICE German Branch Lines

Some train lines extend past the core network and branch off to serve the following connections:

  • from Berlin Hbf to Rostock Hbf (from 10 June 2007)
  • from Hamburg Hbf to Kiel Hbf
  • from Bremen Hbf to Oldenburg Hbf
  • from Köln Hbf to Aachen Hbf (continuing to Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid)
  • from Koblenz Hbf to Trier Hbf
  • from Mannheim Hbf via Kaiserslautern Hbf to Saarbrücken Hbf (continuing to Paris Est from 10 June 2007)
  • from Stuttgart Hbf via Rottweil – Tuttlingen – Singen to Schaffhausen (continuing Zürich HB) now being replaced by conventional InterCity trainsets
  • from München Hbf to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • from Nürnberg Hbf via Regensburg Hbf – Plattling to Passau Hbf (continuing via Linz Hbf to Wien Westbf)

(Also applies to trains in the opposite directions)

ICE Bottlenecks

Several lines on the ICE network are highly trafficked, among them:

  • from Dortmund Hbf via Bochum Hbf – Essen Hbf – Duisburg Hbf – Düsseldorf Hbf to Köln Hbf (Dortmund–Duisburg and Cologne–Duisburg lines)
  • from Frankfurt Hbf to Fulda (Kinzig Valley Railway)
  • from Frankfurt Hbf to Mannheim Hbf (Mannheim–Frankfurt railway, highest IC/ICE frequency in Germany)
  • from Karlsruhe Hbf via Freiburg to Basel SBB (Rhine Valley Railway)

(Also applies to trains in the opposite directions)


The so-called "ICE-Sprinter" trains are extra fast trains between Germany's major cities running in the morning and evening hours. They are tailored for business travellers or long-distance commuters and are marketed by DB as an alternative to domestic flights. Some of the Sprinter services continue as normal ICE services after reaching their destination. Sprinter trains usually depart around 06:00 for morning services and 18:00 for evening services.

A reservation was mandatory on the ICE-Sprinter until December 2015. In addition to the usual 1st class service (on-seat service, free newspapers like Financial Times Deutschland or Handelsblatt), the 1st class in the Sprinter trains also offers free drinks, an on-seat breakfast or dinner and additional newspapers. In the 2nd class, newspapers are provided in the carriages at no extra cost.

The first Sprinter service was established between Munich and Frankfurt in 1992. Frankfurt-Hamburg followed in 1993 and Cologne-Hamburg in 1994. This service ran as a Metropolitan service between December 1996 and December 2004. In 1998, a Berlin-Frankfurt service was introduced and a service between Cologne and Stuttgart ran between December 2005 and October 2006.

Until December 2006, a morning Sprinter service ran between Frankfurt and Munich (with an intermediate stop at Mannheim), taking 3:25 hours for the journey. This has been since replaced by a normal ICE connection taking only 3:21 hours.
As of January 2010, the individual ICE Sprinter lines are:

No.    Departure station      Intermediate stops       Destination            Travel time  Time of day

1091                                                                            3:36         Morning
1093   Berlin Ostbf         Berlin Hbf, Berlin-Spandau    Frankfurt (Main) Hbf    3:37         Evening

1092                                                                            3:37         Morning
1090   Frankfurt (Main) Hbf  Berlin-Spandau, Berlin Hbf    Berlin Ostbf            3:35         Evening

1094   Hamburg-Altona         Hamburg Hbf, Essen Hbf,       Köln Hbf            3:29         Morning
                             Düsseldorf Hbf

1095   Köln Hbf                 Düsseldorf Hbf, Duisburg Hbf, Hamburg-Altona    3:29         Morning
                             Essen Hbf, Hamburg Hbf
1097   Hamburg-Altona         Hamburg Hbf, Hannover Hbf       Frankfurt Hbf    3:19         Morning

(Source: Deutsche Bahn AG)

ICE Line Segments Abroad

Some ICE trains also run on services abroad – sometimes diverting from their original lines.

  • from Duisburg Hbf to Amsterdam Centraal (Netherlands)
  • from Köln Hbf via Aachen Hbf and Liège-Guillemins to Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid (Belgium)
  • from Saarbrücken Hbf to Paris Est (France)
  • from Basel SBB to Interlaken Ost (Switzerland)
  • from Basel SBB to Zürich HB (Switzerland)
  • from Stuttgart Hbf via Schaffhausen to Zürich HB (Switzerland) (Now branded as IC service)
  • from München Hbf via Kufstein to Innsbruck Hbf (Austria)
  • from München Hbf via Salzburg Hbf – Linz Hbf to Wien Westbf (Austria)
  • from Passau Hbf via Linz Hbf to Wien Westbf (Austria)
  • from Flensburg to Aarhus Central (Denmark)
  • from Puttgarden to København H (Denmark)

(Also applies to the opposite directions)

Since December 2006, Stuttgart Hbf and Zürich HB have been connected by a bi-hourly service. This service however has been replaced by a daily Intercity service since March 2010.

The ÖBB in Austria also uses two ICE T trainsets (classified as ÖBB Class 4011) between Wien Westbahnhof, Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof and Bregenz (without stops in Germany), although they do not use tilting technology. Since December 2007 ÖBB and DB offer a bi-hourly connection between Wien Westbf and Frankfurt Hbf.

Since June 2007 ICE 3M trains have been running between Frankfurt Hbf and Paris Est via Saarbrücken and Kaiserslautern. Together with the TGV-operated service between Paris Est, Stuttgart Hbf and München Hbf, this ICE line is part of the "LGV Est européenne", also called "Paris-Ostfrankreich-Süddeutschland" (or POS) for short, a pan-European high-speed line between France and Germany.

Since late 2007, ICE TD trains have linked Berlin Hbf with Copenhagen and Aarhus via Hamburg Hbf.

In addition, ICE Trains to London via the Channel Tunnel are on the horizon, perhaps in 2020. Unique safety and security requirements for the tunnel (such as airport-style checks at stations) as well as hold-ups in the production of the Velaro-D trains to be used on the route have delayed these plans.

Intra-Swiss ICE Trains

To avoid empty runs or excess waits, several services exist that operate exclusively inside Switzerland:

  • three services from Basel SBB to Interlaken Ost
  • two services from Basel SBB to Zürich HB
  • three service from Interlaken Ost to Basel SBB
  • one service from Interlaken Ost to Bern
  • two services from Zürich HB to Basel SBB
  • one service from Bern to Interlaken Ost

These trains, despite being officially notated as ICEs, are more comparable to a Swiss InterRegio or RegioExpress train, calling at small stations like Möhlin or Sissach. As common in Switzerland, these trains can be used without paying extra for a supplement.

ICE Travel Times

DB Intercity-Express travel times between major stations 1, 2
            Amsterdam  Berlin  Brussels  Cologne  Cop'hagen  Düsseldorf  Frankfurt  Hamburg  Munich  Paris  Stuttgart  Vienna  Zürich


           N/A     N/A     2h 37min N/A         2h 11min     3h 55min   N/A         N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A     N/A

Berlin Hbf4       N/A                   N/A       4h 17min N/A         4h 14min    3h 39min3  1h 42min 6h 13minN/A     5h 04min  N/A     N/A

        N/A        N/A         1h 50min N/A         N/A     3h 05min   N/A      N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A     N/A


Hbf 4 
               2h 37min   4h17min 1h 50min              N/A         21min     1h 03min   3h29min3 4h32min N/A     2h13min   9h15min N/A

København H
   N/A           N/A     N/A     N/A             N/A     N/A        4h44min  N/A     N/A     N/A       N/A     N/A

                2h 11min   4h14min N/A     21min      N/A                     1h 26min   3h06min  4h41min N/A     2h28min   N/A     N/A

(Main) Hbf 
       4 3h 55min   3h39min3    3h05min     1h03min  N/A         1h26min            3h20min3 3h09min 3h38min 1h17min   6h46min 3h53min

Hbf 4 
               N/A           1h42min N/A     3h29min3 4h 41min   3h 06min     3h 20min3         5h31min N/A     4h59min   N/A     7h35min

                  N/A           6h13min N/A     4h32min  N/A         4h 44min     3h 09min   5h31min          5h34min 2h12min   3h56min N/A

Paris Gare 
de l'Es
t              N/A           N/A     N/A     N/A      N/A         N/A     3h 38min   N/A         5h34min 3h09min           N/A     N/A

                  N/A           5h04min N/A     2h13min  N/A         2h28min     1h 7min    4h59min  2h12min 3h09min           N/A     2h56min5


                   N/A           N/A     N/A     9h 15min N/A         N/A     6h46min    N/A         3h56min N/A      N/A           N/A

Zürich HB          N/A           N/A     N/A     N/A      N/A         N/A     3h53min    7h35min  N/A     N/A      2h56min5 N/A    


  1. German category 1 stations and comparable international destinations of 250.000 passengers per day or more
  2. only direct connections shown; travel times as of the DB 2016 timetable
  3. ICE Sprinter
  4. additional or alternative ICE stops for Berlin at: Berlin-Gesundbrunnen, Berlin-Spandau and Berlin Ostbf for Cologne (Köln) at: Köln Messe/Deutz and Köln/Bonn Flughafen Fbf for Frankfurt at: Frankfurt (Main) Flughafen Fbf and Hamburg at: HH-Altona, HH Dammtor and HH-Harburg
  5. IC service

ICE Accidents

There have been several accidents involving ICE trains. The Eschede disaster was the only accident with fatalities inside the train, but other accidents have resulted in major damage to the trainsets involved.

ICE Fare Structure

ICE Germany

ICE trains are the highest category (Class A) trains in the fare system of the Deutsche Bahn. Their fares are not calculated on a fixed per-kilometre table as with other trains, but instead have fixed prices for station-to-station connections, depending on a multitude of factors including the railway line category and the general demand on the line. Even on lines where the ICE is not faster than an ordinary IC or EC train (for example Hamburg to Dortmund), an additional surcharge will be levied on the ground that the ICE trains have a higher comfort level than IC/EC trains.

ICE Netherlands

In the Netherlands, a comparably low €2,40 surcharge has to be paid for each trip on the "ICE International" when travellers are not holding an international ticket. Only passengers with a student travel card or a NS-Business card can travel within the Netherlands without having to pay the surcharge.

ICE Austria

On the intra-Austrian lines (Vienna-Innsbruck-Bregenz, Vienna-Salzburg(-Munich), Vienna-Passau(-Hamburg) and Innsbruck-Kufstein(-Berlin)) no additional fees are charged.

ICE Switzerland

Likewise, the trains running to and from Zurich, Interlaken and Chur, as well as those on the intra-Swiss ICE trains (see above) can be used without any surcharge.

In Switzerland and Austria, a ride on the ICE takes nearly as long as on a domestic train. This is because of the comparably short length of travel and the low speeds in these countries (often no more than 160 km/h, sometimes 200 km/h) when compared to Germany.

ICE Denmark

The ICE trains Hamburg – Copenhagen cost the same as the EuroCity trains, there being no other trains. The ICE trains Hamburg – Aarhus have a surcharge of €9 as against other trains (for which two changes are needed). Inside Denmark the ICE trains have the same fare as regional trains.

ICE Scale models

Various ICE train scale models in several scales have been produced by Märklin, Fleischmann, Roco, Trix, Mehano, PIKO. and Lima.

ICE Possible future services

ICE London

In January 2010, the European railway network was opened to a liberalisation intended to allow greater competition. Both Air France-KLM and Deutsche Bahn have indicated their desire to take advantage of the new laws to run new services via the Channel Tunnel and the High Speed 1 route that terminates at London St Pancras.

A test run of an ICE train through the Channel Tunnel took place on 19 October 2010. Passenger-carrying ICE trains, however, will have to meet safety requirements in order to transit the Channel Tunnel. Although the requirement for splittable trains was lifted, concerns remain over the shorter length of ICE trainsets, fire safety, and the ICE's distributed power arrangements. There have been suggestions that French interests have advocated stringent enforcement to delay a competitor on the route. Eurostar also recently chose Siemens Velaro-based rolling stock; there were concerns that Alstom (builders of the passenger trains that already use the Tunnel) and the French Government would take the matter to court. In October 2010, the French transport minister suggested that the European Railway Agency (based in France) should arbitrate. After safety rule changes which might permit the use of Siemens Velaro rolling stock, the French government dismissed their delegate to the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority, and brought in a replacement.

In March 2011, a European Rail Agency report authorized trains with distributed traction for use in the Channel Tunnel. This means that the ICE class 407 trains which DB intends to use for its London services will be able to run through the tunnel. In February 2014, however, Deutsche Bahn announced further difficulties with launching the route, and reports make it seem unlikely that service will start anytime this decade.

ICE Munich-Zurich

A new ICE service from Munich to Zurich via Lindau is planned to start after 2020 when the electrification and modernization works in the 150 km section between Geltendorf and Lindau will be completed. The journey times will be then cut by 45min to less than 3 hours and 30 minutes and the line between Munich and Zurich is expected to be served by up to eight trains per day running at speeds up to 160 km/h.

Total Number of ICE Passengers

From its inception in July 1991 to 2006, ICE has transported roughly 550 million passengers, including 67 million in 2005. The cumulative sum of passengers is roughly 1.25 billion in 2015.

Number of ICE Passengers
Year    million riders    ±% p.a.

1991    5.1            —    
1992    10.2            +100.00%
1993    14.6            +43.14%
1994    21.3            +45.89%
1995    27.2            +27.70%
2000    41.6            +8.87%
2005    66.8            +9.94%
2010    77.8            +3.10%
2015    80            +0.56%

ICE Legacy

On 5 October 2006, the Deutsche Post AG released a series of stamps, among them a stamp picturing an ICE 3, at 55+25 euro cents.

In 2006, Lego modelled one of its train sets after the ICE. A Railworks add on is available for Train Simulator 2012 accurately reflecting the original 1991 version of the ICE on German tracks (Siegen to Hagen). There is also an addon utilising the Munich - Augsburg line using ICE 3 trainsets.

Countries of Operation:  Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and France
Dates of Operation:       1985–present
Predecessor:                  See ICE History
Track Gauge:                  1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)
                                         1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) 
                                         Russian gauge



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