ICE Intercity Express First to Fourth Generation

ICE Intercity Express - B

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) could not 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 railway 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 280 km/h (174 mph).

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 entire European standard gauge network, with the sole exception being the UK's domestic railway network. Unlike their predecessors, the ICE 3 units are built not as trains with separate passenger and power cars, 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.

Initially two different classes were developed: the Class 403 (domestic ICE 3) and the Class 406 (ICE 3M), the M standing for Mehrsystem (multi-system). Later came Class 407 and Class 408. 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 short trains (when compared to an ICE 1), and are able to travel in a system where individual units run 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 at the allowed maximum speed of 300 km/h, they are used predominantly on services that utilise this line.

In 2009 Deutsche Bahn ordered another 16 units - worth € 495 million - for international traffic, especially to France.

The Erfurt-Leipzig/Halle high-speed railway, which opened in December 2015, is one of three lines in Germany (the others being the Nuremberg-Ingolstadt high-speed rail line and Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line) that are equipped for a line speed of 300 km/h (190 mph). 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 (200 mph) on the LGV Est railway Strasbourg-Paris in France.

A new generation ICE 3, Class 407, 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. Initially this train type was meant to execute the planned Deutsche Bahn services through the Channel Tunnel to London. As the trains had not received a certification for running in Belgium and due to the competition of budget airlines the London service was cancelled.

In 2020 Deutsche Bahn placed an order with Siemens for 30 trains of the Velaro design and based on the previously procured ICE Class 407. Referenced by Siemens as Velaro MS (“multi-system”), these trains are called ICE 3 neo by Deutsche Bahn and classified as 408. The trains are designed for operation at 320 km/h and will be deployed from the end of 2022 on routes that use the Cologne - Frankfurt high speed line which is designed for operation at 300 km/h. After a production time of only 12 months including trial runs the first train was presented to journalists in February of 2022. At that occasion the order was increased by 43 trainsets, with all 73 trains supposed to be in service by early 2029.

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 in 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. 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 230 km/h (143 mph).


Deutsche Bahn ordered 20 units of ICE-T with diesel engines in 2001, called Class 605 ICE-TD. The ICE-TD was intended for certain routes without electric overhead cables such as Dresden-Munich and Munich-Zurich lines. However, the Class 605 trains (ICE-TD) experienced many technical issues and unanticipated escalation in operating cost due to the diesel fuel being fully taxed in Germany. They were taken off the revenue service shortly after the delivery. During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the ICE-TD trains were pressed temporarily into the supplementary service for transporting the fans between cities in Germany.

At the end of 2007, ICE-TD trains were put into revenue service for the lines between Hamburg and Copenhagen as well as Hamburg and Aarhus. A large part of Danish railway network hadn't been electrified so DSB (Danish State Railways) used the diesel-powered trains. When DSB ordered the new IC4 train sets, the company did not anticipate the long delay with the delivery and the technical issues with the train sets. To compensate for the shortage of available trains, DSB leased the ICE-TD while the delivery and technical issues with IC4 were being addressed. The operating cost was much lower due to the lower fuel tax in Denmark. After the issues with IC4 were resolved, ICE-TD fleet was removed from the revenue service and stored.

Deutsche Bahn has officially retired the entire ICE TD fleet in 2018.

ICE Overview

Locale: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and France. Formerly Denmark.
Dates of Operation: 1985-present
Track Gauge: 1,435mm Standard gauge
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