The High-Speed Rail Germany Needs

I’ve argued in two previous posts that Germany needs to build a complete high-speed rail network, akin to what China, Japan, France, South Korea, and Spain have built. Here is the network that Germany should build in more detail:

The red lines denote high-speed lines, some legacy 250-280 km/h lines but most built to support 300-320 km/h, that are justifiable within the context of domestic travel. Some of these already exist, such as the Frankfurt-Cologne line and the majority of the Berlin-Munich line; Berlin-Hamburg is a legacy line upgraded to 230, currently tied with Frankfurt-Cologne for fastest average speed between two major cities in Germany. A handful of red lines are key legacy connections, i.e. Dresden-Leipzig and Dortmund-Duisburg. Some more detail on the red lines is available in Google Maps.

The blue lines denote high-speed lines, generally built to 300, that only make sense in an international context. The lines in France are the LGV Est and its short low-speed branch across the border to Saarbrücken. In Belgium the line preexists as well as HSL 3 and HSL 4, but is quite slow, averaging only 140 km/h from Brussels to Aachen thanks to a combination of a slow segment to Leuven and a speed-restricted western approach to Liege. In the Netherlands, Switzerland, Czechia, Austria, and Poland the lines are completely speculative, though in Czechia a high-speed line from Prague to Dresden is under study.

Update 8/19: here is another map of the same network, color-coded differently – red is proposed lines (most by me, a few officially), yellow is lines under construction, blue is existing lines, black is low-speed connections. Note that outside Berlin’s northern approaches, urban approaches are not colored black even if they’re slow.

Trip times

To compute trip times, I dusted off my train performance calculator, linked here. The parameters I used are those planned for the next-generation Velaro (“Velaro Novo“), i.e. a power-to-weight ratio of 20.7 kW/t and an initial acceleration rate of 0.65 m/s^2; the quadratic air resistance term is 0.000012, as any higher term would make it impossible to reach speeds already achieved in tests. On curves, the lateral acceleration in the horizontal plane is set at 2.09 m/s^2 on passenger-priority lines, mirroring what is achieved on Frankfurt-Cologne, and 1.7 elsewhere, accounting for lower superelevation.

These are aggressive assumptions and before running the code, I did not expect Berlin-Munich to be so fast. With intermediate stops at Erfurt, Nuremberg, and maybe also Ingolstadt, this city pair could be connected in 2.5 hours minus a few minutes for interchange time at the terminals. In general, all trip times printed on the map are a few minutes slower than what is achievable even with some schedule padding, corresponding to dwell times at major through-stations plus interchange at terminals. The upshot is that among the largest metro areas in Germany, the longest trips are Hamburg-Stuttgart at 3:30 minus change and Hamburg-Munich at 3:15 minus change; nothing else is longer than 3 hours.

The stopping pattern should be uniform. That is, every 320 km/h train between Berlin and Munich should stop exactly at Berlin Südkreuz, Erfurt, Nuremberg, and maybe Ingolstadt. If these trains skip Ingolstadt, it’s fine to run some 250 km/h trains part of the way, for example between Munich and Nuremberg and then northwest on legacy track to Würzburg and Frankfurt, with the Ingolstadt station added back. Similarly, from Hamburg south, every train should stop at Hanover, Göttingen, Kassel, and Fulda.

In certain cases, the stopping pattern should be decided based on whether trains can make a schedule in an exact number of quarter-hours. That is, if it turns out that Munich-Nuremberg with an intermediate stop in Ingolstadt takes around 42 minutes then the Ingolstadt stop should be kept; but if it takes 46 minutes, then Ingolstadt should be skipped, and instead of running in the depicted alignment, the line should stay near the Autobahn and bypass the city in order to be able to make it in less than 45 minutes. I think Ingolstadt can still be kept, but one place where the map is likely to be too optimistic is Stuttgart-Munich; Ulm may need to be skipped on the fastest trains, and slower trains should pick up extra stops so as to be 15 minutes slower.

Frequency and service planning

Today, the frequency on the major city pairs is hourly. Under the above map, it should be half-hourly, since the faster trip times will induce more ridership. As a sanity check, TGVs connect Paris with each of Lyon’s two stations hourly off-peak and twice an hour at the peak. Paris is somewhat larger than the entire Rhine-Ruhr, Lyon somewhat smaller than Stuttgart or Munich and somewhat larger than the Rhine-Neckar. But the ICE runs somewhat smaller trains and has lower occupancy as it runs trains on a consistent schedule all day, so matching the peak schedule on the TGV is defensible.

The upshot is that Berlin can probably be connected every 30 minutes to each of Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Düsseldorf, and the Ruhr proper. Frankfurt-Munich is likely to be every 30 minutes, as are Hamburg-Frankfurt and Hamburg-Munich. To further improve network connectivity, the schedule at Erfurt should be set in such a way that Hamburg-Munich and Berlin-Frankfurt trains are timed with a cross-platform transfer, regardless of the pulse anywhere else. A few connections to smaller cities should be hourly, like Berlin-Bremen (with a timed transfer at Hanover to Hamburg-Frankfurt or Hamburg-Munich), Leipzig-Munich, Leipzig-Frankfurt, and Frankfurt-Basel.

The loop track around Frankfurt is based on a real plan for mainline through-tracks at the station, currently in the early stages of construction. The near-Autobahn loop is not included, but such a connection, if done at-grade, could provide value by letting trains from Munich enter the station from the east and then continue northwest toward Cologne without reversing direction.

If the international connections are built as planned, then additional hourly and even more frequent connections can be attractive. Zurich-Stuttgart might well even support a train every half hour, going all the way to Frankfurt and thence to either Cologne or Berlin. Similarly, Berlin-Frankfurt-Paris could plausibly fill an hourly train if Frankfurt-Paris is cut to 2:30 via Saarbrücken, and maybe even if it takes three hours via Karlsruhe.

The one exception to this interconnected mesh is Fulda-Würzburg. The Hanover-Würzburg line was built as a single 280 km/h spine through West Germany with low-speed branches down to Frankfurt and Munich. Unfortunately, completing the Würzburg-Nuremberg segment has little value: Munich-Frankfurt would be almost as fast via Stuttgart, and Hamburg-Munich would be half an hour faster via Erfurt with not much more construction difficulty on Göttingen-Erfurt. Fulda-Würzburg should thus be a shuttle with timed transfers at Fulda, potentially continuing further south at lower speed to serve smaller markets in Bavaria.

Cost

The domestic network depicted on the map is 1,300 km long, not counting existing or under-construction lines. Some lines require tunneling, like Erfurt-Fulda-Frankfurt, but most do not; the heaviest lifting has already been done, including between Erfurt and Nuremberg and around Stuttgart for Stuttgart 21 and the under-construction high-speed line to Ulm. I doubt 100 km of tunnel are necessary for this network; for comparison, Hanover-Würzburg alone has 120 km of tunnel, as the line has very wide curve radii to support both high-speed passenger rail and low-speed freight without too much superelevation. The cost should be on the order of 30-40 billion euros.

The international network is more complex. Berlin-Prague is easy on the German side and even across the border, and the only real problems are on the Czech side, especially as Czech planners insist on serving Usti on the way with a city center station. But Stuttgart-Zurich is a world of pain, and Frankfurt-Saarbrücken may require some tunneling through rolling terrain as well, especially around Saarbrücken itself.

Even with the international lines added in, the German share of the cost should not be too onerous. Getting everything in less than 50 billion euros should not be hard, even with some compromises with local NIMBYs. Even on an aggressive schedule aiming for completion by 2030, it’s affordable in a country where the budget surplus in 2018 was €58 billion across all levels of government and where there are signs of impending recession rather than inflation.

With its mesh of medium-size cities all over the country following plausible lines, Germany is well-placed to have the largest high-speed rail network in Europe. It has the ability to combine the precise scheduling and connections of Switzerland and the Netherlands with the high point-to-point speeds of France and Spain, creating a system that obsoletes domestic flights and competes well with cars and intercity buses. The government can implement this; all it takes is the political will to invest in a green future.

80 comments

  1. Martin

    I guess there is no HSR system in the world right now where transfers play more than a negligible role. Besides fare economics, I think the transfers are also quite complex. I think the Chinese system is the only one looking a bit like what you propose.

    I am wondering how feasible it is with station layout to have several trains arriving with 600 people each (or twice that for a long train), where half of the passengers of the trains will switch to the other trains. In the Chinese HSR system that handles huge volumes, you board through gates that are not at track level where you have to be there at least 15 minutes before the train board. I think it has little to do with security and is mostly for crowd control (the legacy system also works similarly). Probably to a large extent solvable with a good and specialized station layout, but I dont think it would be possible to just run start using legacy stations. I would never book two trains in China with less than 20 minutes between transfers at a busy station, and preferable 30 minutes I think (assuming perfect punctuality, which I think is decent on Chinese HSR). And Chinese HSR stations are huge, and probably not cheap.

    • yuuka

      Chinese HSR stations are more like most international airports – arriving and departing passengers don’t mix, and security is at the entrance to departures.

      At major terminals this is done by having departures upstairs and arrivals downstairs. There are passageways to allow transferring passengers to go back into the departures hall, provided they have a valid ticket.

      Closer to home in Europe, just ask Eurostar how it’s done, since they need segregated arrivals and departures to allow for immigration clearance.

    • Herbert

      There is no objective need for security checks to board trains.

      Everything you could do inside a train you can do worse outside it. Especially when you mess with the tracks….

    • Eric

      I don’t see why HSR would need more complex transfers than regional/suburban rail.

      • Mikel

        Intercity passengers typically carry more luggage than those of a metro/RER. While the reduced number of passengers might offset the larger volume per person, you’re gonna need escalators to change platforms — a small, slow lift originally intended for wheelchairs won’t do. So if a small- or medium-sized city sees a sudden increase of intercity ridership due to a new HSL, some platform reconstruction might be needed in some cases?

      • Martin

        Eric: So one difference is of course that commuters will be more familiar with platforms/stations etc, and also carry less luggage (and be of a different mindset). Many intercity travels will also spend a lot more time at stations and platforms than commuters. Chinese HSR has pretty narrow platforms, but I think because of this has departure gates for example.

        But perhaps more importantly, you almost never have regional/suburban train with massive volumes of timed transfers either. They tend to empty out at key central destinations (where some may transfer to rapid-transit). The closest is something like Shinjuku and that is certainly a logistical challenge (and is planned for this). I think massive scale 5-10 minute transfers would be theoretically possible at train stations also for HSR, but it would require very wide platforms and massive supportive infrastructure for emptying and entering platforms, and a thoughtful logistic plan. It would not simply automatically work at European legacy train stations.

        • Alon Levy

          There are massive volumes of timed transfers *on the U-Bahn* here (U2/U3 at Wittenbergplatz, and U6/U7 at Mehringdamm off-peak). There are also massive volumes of untimed cross-platform transfers at Les Halles in Paris…

    • Alon Levy

      The transfers don’t really depend on speed, though. Swiss transfers are fast and involve big (if not 16-car) trains.

      The one thing I only realized after posting is that not all transfers on the map have to be timed. At Hanover, in particular, the frequency in all directions is extremely high because of the interlining. Hanover-Berlin is basically show up and go, so nothing in that direction needs to be timed when the next train is in at most 10 (maybe 15?) minutes. Hanover-Hamburg is a bit more complicated, because you can’t actually run trains evenly every 15 minutes because of the 30-30-45 travel time through the Göttingen-Erfurt-Fulda triangle, but then whichever branch you time it with west of Hanover, some other branch is getting a 20-minute wait.

      Erfurt is still a great location for a timed same-direction transfer, but that’s simpler than the Hanover mess.

      But anyway, that’s getting into my next Germany post about Stuttgart 21 and the difference between frequent through-running and a timed pulse…

      • df1982

        Germany’s ICE network already makes prodigious use of cross-platform transfers. Try booking a train from Berlin to Frankfurt and in addition to the direct sprinters, you’ll get a lot of options for services involving a guaranteed connection at places like Erfurt or Hannover, which usually don’t take much longer (4h10 instead of 3h50), and can often be a lot cheaper for the casual traveller. It usually works pretty well.

        This is needed because Germany’s travel demand is much more multi-dimensional than, say, France, where the vast majority of traffic is heading to or from Paris and the TGV system is concomitantly shaped like a hub-and-spoke system. For Germany Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and the Ruhr-Rhine are all major travel locations, and are spread out evenly across the country (that’s without mentioning the vast number of second-tier cities), so a spider’s web is necessary, and can only have effective frequencies through the use of transfers.

        • Herbert

          There are German brands everybody knows headquartered in places nobody knows.

          The HQ of Adidas in Herzogenaurach lost rail access in the eighties

        • Telso

          Mannheim is another big cross-platform transfer: trains from Basel and Munich each leave hourly to Mannheim and then alternate to Cologne and Berlin, so from Basel and Munich you can always get an hourly train to Berlin or Cologne, with just a cross-platform transfer. (Obviously now, with the more direct Munich-Berlin route, you wouldn’t use this, but I used this many times in 2008/2009.) From Basel the transfers are actually faster because the Munich-Berlin train goes via Erfurt after Frankfurt instead of Göttingen and the Munich-Cologne train doesn’t stop in Siegburg/Bonn.

  2. Hias

    Wow, amazing what would be possible. Thanks for your great work.
    But your timetable is very ambitious especially for this very special german combination of lazy ministers of transport and strong nimbys. For example the timetable for the northern approach for the Brenner Basistunnel is shameful for Germany.

    It seems to me a more national view, as you didn’t, for example, include the connections the big projects in the north (Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link) and the the Brenner Basis tunnel, which i consider to be important future european connections. Do you think it is more important to plan a domestic network first?

    And would it make sense to link smaller cities at the end of this network via a sprinter (so for example to extend a Munich-Hamburg Sprinter to Kiel or a Munich-Berlin Sprinter to Rostock) to get good connections also for the cities outside this network?

  3. Herbert

    The Prague Dresden line is not only being considered on the Czech side but also in Saxony. Their plan calls for a theory kilometer long base tunnel under the Ore Mountains.

    Why? To relieve the freight bottleneck that is the Elbe Valley line (currently the only electrified rail line connecting the Czech Republic with Germany and thus the ports it needs to export its still significant industrial production) go to Bad Schandau some time and look at the rail line, it really IS busy with intermodal container cargo and all kinds of passenger trains

    • Alon Levy

      For the cost of a 30 km base tunnel they can build like 150 km at-grade. If a passenger-dedicated line from Dresden to Prague doesn’t leave enough capacity on the legacy line for freight, for that money they can build a second at-grade line designed with low grades and sharp curves.

      I believe the plans for HSR in Sweden are passenger-dedicated. I’m not sure, but it’s worth checking out, since Sweden has the most domestic freight rail usage in Western Europe (domestic = not including international freight across the Alps).

      • Herbert

        Where would you put such a line?

        The Elbe Valley is too narrow to add tracks to the existing line and everything else is too steep our the long way round.

        You can pretty clearly see the western boundary of the Czech Republic on a physical map of Europe because it’s all mountains

        • Sascha Claus

          I’d put such a line somewhere around the Bohemian Spa Triangle (crossing the border at Vojtanov), fed from the north via Leipzig – Zwickau – Plauen and from the south via Cheb – Plzeň. One track and electrification on the Czech side is already there, and there might even detailed plans collecting dust in some archive.
          That’s certainly not an alternative for all directions, but should take a lot of pressure from the Elbe Valley. It is also a lot less likely to gain S-Bahn trains with 15min frequency in the forseeable future.

          • Herbert

            What about tourist travel?

            The Elbe Valley love is gorgeous and gets people to popular hiking and climbing spots

          • Sascha Claus

            My answer relates only to goods traffic, didn’t I mention this? 😉
            Tourist travel to Saxonian Switzerland won’t be affected much by a Dresden – Prague HSL, because
            (1) that line won’t come close to Bad Schandau anyway,
            (2) tourists to this region will be more interested in a fast travel from home to Dresden or Prague instead of a fast line Dresden – Prague past their destination and
            (3) more time will be lost on the last mile(s) from the a “Gare Suisse Saxonne TGV” to their final destination.

          • Herbert

            The Elbe Valley line will always be busy with commuter and tourist travel which limits its usability as a freight line. But its currently the geographically shorter connection from Dresden to Prague. The Ore Mountain Base Tunnel is an eminently sensible project to relieve this line and provide both freight and high speed passenger capacity. And the best part: a large part of the burden will be borne by the Czech Republic

  4. Herbert

    Why are you entirely ignoring the potential of Prague-Nuremberg-Frankfurt and Munich-Prague?

    • Alon Levy

      In an earlier version of this, I did have a connection from Prague toward the Bavarian line, meeting around Ingolstadt. I ended up removing it because Munich is not that big of a city, and international links, especially across a language barrier, don’t perform nearly as well as intranational ones. (Of note, there’s higher train frequency between Paris and Lyon than between Paris and London.) Sometimes the cities are big enough it doesn’t matter – London and Paris are big enough Eurostar still gets decent ridership.

      So in that scheme, Berlin-Prague looks okay, just not amazing. There’s Berlin-Dresden on the way, and if the line is built to passenger-dedicated HSR standards and not mixed line standard then it can be done without much tunneling. But then Munich is smaller than Berlin, and getting to Nuremberg and Frankfurt on the same cross-border line is kind of a chore.

      • Herbert

        Build Nuremberg Prague Frankfurt and eliminate Frankfurt Prague flights. You’d also be surprised how well most Czechs (especially those living around Cheb, Plzen etc.) Speak German… And the Eurostar underperforms in ridership in part because thanks to Thatcherite “the Chunnel must make its money back” tickets are expensive

      • Sascha Claus

        Regarding the insistence “on serving Usti on the way with a city center station”, we’re talking about the largest city between Dresden and Prague and the 7th-largest Czech city, so fighting this political constraint might not be worth it. Just try to find a way to bend this rule …
        Since most new high-speed trainsets are only 200m long, just run two of them coupled from Prague to Ústí nad Labem TGV and split them there, one for Dresden, Berlin and maybe Hamburg, the other one for Ústí nad Labem city centre and along the Ohře valley to Karlovy Vary, Sokolov and Cheb.

        • Alon Levy

          7th largest in Czechia doesn’t really mean much… it’s a country with about the same population of Belgium, where the 7th-largest city, Namur, isn’t anywhere near high-speed rail.

          But yeah, splitting trains may not be a bad idea.

          • adirondacker12800

            There’s going to be so many high speed trains between Berlin and Vienna that there can’t be one an hour from Prague to the provinces? Glancing at Hamburg-Budapest, the Tokaido doesn’t come to mind.

  5. gertikan

    Tack on another 50 billion or so for additional capacity and traffic disentanglement at the nodes. They don’t have enough capacity as it is. Like in Switzerland, a functional tact (with additional high-speed traffic) will require focusing the investment at the nodes. Especially the major nodes such as Hamburg or Cologne can’t be easily extended.
    btw the Frankfurt tunnel (part of a 5.5 billion package) is in the early stages of “design”. A feasibility study is to be tendered this year.

    • Alon Levy

      The center-of-the-universe nodes, like Frankfurt and Hanover, benefit from the fact that there’s so much throughput if there’s continuous HSR that trains can just trickle in and out without transfer timing. The Deutschlandtakt already proposes 5.5 tph on the Frankfurt-Cologne HSR – 3 from Frankfurt Hbf, 2 from Mannheim and the airport, 0.5 from Wiesbaden – and if the new tunnel and the loop I’m proposing let everything feed through Frankfurt Hbf, it means people can just show up and go. By the same token, they can show up and go if they arrive by another train, e.g. from Berlin or Mainz – the wait time won’t be longer than around 10-15 minutes. So even with a 2-track tunnel, trains can enter in a relatively evenly spaced sequence, and the actual capacity is 15+ tph (as on the Tokaido Shinkansen).

      This is all very different at places where transfers need to be timed, like Erfurt, but Erfurt is specifically not a particularly constrained location.

      • adirondacker12800

        Timed transfer in Erfurt with what? If the local train from the provincial hinterlands gets to Erfurt at :16 once an hour there aren’t many people on it or it would be :16 and :46. If you are doing it so there are cheap seats between Hamburg and Frankfort, it’s too bad you had to wait 17 minutes to make your cheap seat connection in Erfurt instead of paying a few Euros more for the direct train.

        • Alon Levy

          Berlin-Frankfurt, Hamburg-Munich. It provides extra Berlin-Munich frequency and (if you don’t mind the extra 15 minutes of trip time) extra Hamburg-Frankfurt frequency.

          • adirondacker12800

            And if you want the cheap seats, assuming someone isn’t already sitting in, it’s too bad your connection is 17 minutes instead of 8. If there are great big hordes of people getting off the train from Berlin in Efurt there’s going to be great big hordes of people in Erfurt who want to go to Munich so I’m not sure there are going to be seats.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s not about the cheap seats, this isn’t Amtrak or SNCF or the airlines with their we-hate-our-customers yield management. The ICE’s average occupancy at least as of 10 years ago was around 50%, more like the Regional than like the Acela or the TGV.

          • adirondacker12800

            If the trains are half empty why are you worrying about providing more capacity? You are providing a solution to problems that don’t exist.

          • Alon Levy

            I mean, the Acela is one-third empty and Amtrak thinks it’s at capacity, and ditto the TGV and SNCF. All of this is average occupancy; it’s higher at busy times.

            Thing is, even at busy times, Erfurt isn’t going to break seating capacity. Its size compared with that of Berlin is not much more than that of New Haven compared with New York.

          • adirondacker12800

            So the when train between Hamburg and Cologne is sold out, at the same time of day the trains between Berlin and Cologne won’t be? And no one wants to go from Hamburg to Erfurt but there are people do want to come in from Berlin. Hmmm. And no one wants to go to Munich? If the 5:05 is sold out why would I take the trip that takes longer than just waiting for the 5:25 that isn’t sold out? Someday far far far in the future there might be two ways to get from New York to Boston via New Haven. If the 5:05 to New York via Providence is sold out why would I take the 5:07 via Springfield that takes a half hour longer instead of just waiting for the 5:20 that isn’t sold out? If I want to get from Paoli to New Haven why would I be changing trains in Trenton? Wouldn’t I just wait for the next train that is a one seat ride? You are trying to wedge this solution into problem that doesn’t exist. And if you have to do it because you decided to celebrate New Years in Frankfort early in the morning of New Years Eve, when all the trains you would like are booked, well it’s just too bad that your transfer takes 37 minutes.

          • seb

            I think timed transfer at Erfurt are better for the connection to Leipzig, Dresden and Halle from Munich, because I guess your high speed lines should be as straight as possible like metro lines, or?

  6. Felix Thoma

    The rule for an integrated periodic timetable with headways 30 minutes is not only that the times between the hubs have to be multiples of 15 minutes between the hubs, but also that the times for each circle have to be multiples of 30 minutes, in order to have the start and end at the same hub with the same of the two symmetry times s and s+15. I think that you ignored that sometimes. But personally I think that a dedicated high-speed network does not necessarily need an integrated periodic timetable.

    • Alon Levy

      Circle = graph-theoretic cycle, like Erfurt-Göttingen-Fulda? Yeah, it’s definitely a problem that it’s offset by 15 minutes; it means Hamburg-Hanover-Göttingen can’t be a clean 15-minute headway. But then Hamburg-Frankfurt can be offset from the pulse by an odd amount, it doesn’t have other timed transfers on the way except at Fulda to Würzburg (not an important part of the network if Munich-Frankfurt goes via Stuttgart). The connecting lines at Hanover and Frankfurt are both extremely frequent, so it’s not that useful to time them.

      • Felix Thoma

        Yes. Another characterization is that the graph has to be bipartite, if you partition edges longer than 15 minutes to sections of 15 minutes.

        I noticed that you added a high speed line between Erfurt and Göttingen, which is an interesting alternative, but Erfurt and Göttingen are not so important, so I would rather fill the gap Frankfurt – Würzburg – Nürnberg in order to offer existing connections from Frankfurt or Kassel to Nürnberg in high speed and avoid ICE trains ending at Würzburg.

        Another thing which wondered me is the missing connection Utrecht – Arnhem – Duisburg – Düsseldorf – Köln, especially as Duisburg – Düsseldorf is to be extended to six tracks in the Rhein-Ruhr Express project.

        • Alon Levy

          While working on the map, I was trying to figure out where to land the line to Utrecht. Duisburg seemed like the natural place, either going direct via Arnhem or detouring via Den Bosch and maybe even Eindhoven. The problem: Dortmund-Duisburg is slow and will always stay slow, because the only plausible rights-of-way for faster trains skip Essen Hbf. Once I checked plausible speed zones and realized that Berlin-Düsseldorf would actually be 15 minutes faster than Berlin-Duisburg, I moved the high-speed connection to the Netherlands to Düsseldorf – it’d be faster from just about anywhere except the Ruhr.

          Erfurt-Göttingen vs. Würzburg-Nuremberg is the same thing – it turns out that the speed difference is heavily in favor of the northern route, since Göttingen-Fulda can’t be done in 30 minutes. Frankfurt-Munich would be faster via Würzburg and Nuremberg if that segment were fast (and it’s depicted in pink in my Google map), but only by 15 minutes – I thought it would be possible to do Nuremberg-Frankfurt in 45 minutes, but no, it’s at best around 55 minutes. So that connection is really only about Frankfurt-Nuremberg, which isn’t thaaaaaaat important.

          • Felix Thoma

            The current ICE from Amsterdam via Duisburg to Frankfurt and further south could just remain on its existing route, while the new ICE could go via Eindhoven (the city now tries to get at least an IC connection to Düsseldorf) and perhaps also Rotterdam.

            Although the cities are not among the top 10 in Germany, don’t underestimate the traveller potential of regions such as Nordhessen (around Kassel), Unterfranken (around Würzburg), Oberfranken (around Nürnberg) and Oberpfalz (around Regensburg).

          • Alon Levy

            Is there an especially high tourist volume to those regions? Usually when I think of parts of Germany with lots of tourism relative to city size, I think of Schwarzwald and the Middle Rhine…

          • Felix Thoma

            Not so much touristic (except for some cities such as Regensburg) but I just want to point out that the regions in Western Germany are often quite populous – a very large part of German citizens lives in mid-size cities – and even some of the more rural regions in states such as Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bayern are economically strong, which results in business travellers.

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, but how strong is Oberpfalz or Unterfranken? These areas aren’t nearly so rich as Oberbayern; Unterfranken is (very slowly) depopulating, unlike the boom in Oberbayern and Mittelfranken.

          • Felix Thoma

            Not so much, but lots of small towns sum up, and at least Unterfranken is used to have ICE connections to the north, west and east. The advantage of an ICE routing via Kassel is that also people from eastern part of Nordrhein-Westfalen profit from that.

          • fischerhias

            Felix is right. Regensburg for example is not only a strong and growing economic center for eastern Bavaria but has also a lot of tourism (world heritage site). The same is true for Nuremberg (but it is MIttelfranken) and for Wurzburg. And, i think, you should also keep in mind, that commuter use the fast trains (for example Augsburg-Munich), so Munich-Regensburg (perhaps inculding the Munich Airport) seems a good connection.

          • Herbert

            Oberfranken is awkward to reach by rail from Nuremberg, at least its eastern part. The line to Bayreuth is not electrified and trains take overt an hour just to get there…

          • Sascha Claus

            The named regions aren’t exactly the touristic hotspots of Germany or even the only regions of Germany known in America, but they are somewhat well known as beautiful touristic regions. Problem is, that it’s diffcult or impossible to get around without a car, so most Germans would still come in their own car instead of “flying” in by train and renting one.

  7. df1982

    I like the concept, but is there any chance you could do up a map with colour-coding to differentiate between new-build lines, upgraded existing lines and existing lines with no need for upgrading? This would make things much easier to visualise.

      • Onux

        Would it be too much to ask for a map with the new build portions color coded as to phasing? I am assuming Wolfsberg-Cologne, the remaining Berlin-Munich portions, and Frankfurt-Mannheim and Ulm-Munich would be first to complete the Berlin-Rhine/Rhur-Munich triangle, but would be interested to see a plan after that.

        Also, you might want to change some of your abbreviations for a wider audience. I am guessing most non-Germans don’t know that HB is “Hansestadt Bremen” while Hamburg is HH for “Hansestadt Hamburg”.

        • Alon Levy

          I wasn’t really thinking about phasing; to be honest, Germany can just plan and build the entire system over 10-15 years. It’s not some pilot project, it’s a plan for taking the ICE network from 1,400 km existing + 300 under-construction to a total of 3,000. The most important line in this scheme is Frankfurt-Mannheim just because of capacity issues, but that will be built soon either way. The least important is the branch to Bremen, but everything else is designed to work together as a single system.

      • df1982

        Thanks Alon that helps a lot, but what does yellow indicate? Borderline/phase 2 lines?

        • Alon Levy

          Blue = existing, yellow = under construction, red = proposed (some officially, like Frankfurt-Mannheim, some only by me, like completing Berlin-Munich).

          • Alon Levy

            The Mottgers Spange plan only has an NBS between Frankfurt and Fulda, no? Frankfurt-Würzburg is an ABS with one new tunnel slightly shortening trip times, at least per the map Wikipedia has.

  8. Onux

    What about Stuttgart-Wurzburg? The Stuttgart metro area is the same size as Munich (technically slightly larger according to some sources) and a 30 min connection between the two would put it the same time from Berlin as Munich, and slightly closer to Hamburg.

      • Yom Sen

        You can do this trip in less than 2h and no transfer… with Flixbus
        By train via Fulda is more than 3h
        Best time found on SBB website is 2h40 via Frankfurt
        0h45 should be possible with a new line (150km). That would mean Stuttgart-Fulda in 1h30 instead of 2h15 today via Frankfurt.

      • Onux

        The point isn’t to get to Wurzburg, it’s that from Wurzburg you can get to Berlin (via Fulda-Erfurt) and Hamburg (via Fulda-Hannover). This is a savings of 15 min over Alon’s aggressive times on his map, and 45 min over actual time today as Yom Sen notes.

        The Hannover-Wurzburg line may be a legacy of when W Germany couldn’t go to Munich through E Germany, but it is there and longest HSR line in the country. Leaving it as a stub doesn’t seem optimal when it could connect to a metro area the size of Munich, with per capita GDP similar to Rhine-Sud/Frankfurt, and air traffic similar to Cologne/Hamburg.

        There may be a reason this isn’t necessary or cost effective, I’m just curious.

        • Herbert

          Well given that he’s dismissive of Würzburg Nuremberg and doesn’t even address Stuttgart-Nuremberg….

          • Onux

            I understand dismissing Wurzburg-Nuremberg; as Alon points out the time from Hamburg to Munich is the same either way or faster through Erfurt.
            Mentioning Stuttgart-Nuremburg made me check my assumptions: if Stuttgart-Nuremberg can be done in 45 min (at an average of 233kph+) the time to Hamburg should be the same, and the time to Berlin 15 min faster, just 2h30. Given that Nuremberg is a much larger city, that would seem to be the better bet for connecting Suttgart to the N/NE. If it takes 60 min to go Stuttgart-Nuremberg, then the time to Berlin is the same, and to Hamburg faster via Wurzberg. Since Wurzberg will have 25+km fewer track miles, it is probably better in that case on cost.
            Still leaves about 100km of high quality 280kph track hanging in Wurzburg as a stub if you go to Nuremburg…

          • Herbert

            Stuttgart Nuremberg via Munich is airline level geographic insanity. We’re talking of two cities of half a million here, cores of strong industrial regions with companies like Mercedes or Adidas. They should be within one hour of each other.

            And leaving Würzburg dangling (even though official federal plans call for an upgrade to Nuremberg Frankfurt via Würzburg) makes little sense to me. Especially since the existing line is quite busy

  9. Herbert

    Why is the line from Munich to Vienna ignoring Salzburg while making a weird detour to serve Linz?

    • Herbert

      This is especially odd since Vienna Salzburg is already part of the 230 km/h “Westbahn” (technologically capable of 250 km/h for long stretches) and Munich Salzburg is the slow stretch.

      This map also ignores the effects of the Brenner Base tunnel on connections to Italy

      • Onux

        I’m not sure why you think it is ignoring the Westbahn to go to Linz when the Westbahn runs right through Linz Hbf. Plus, as I understand it, the 250kph portion is Vienna-St Polten, with St Polten to Linz being upgraded to 200-230kph in sections. There are currently no 4-track (i.e. 2 track legacy, 2 track HSL) segments of the Westbahn from Linz to Salzburg. Since Munch direct to Linz is shorter than going SE to Salzburg then NE to Linz, it would seem that Alon’s plan is actually making very good use of the existing HSL in Austria.

  10. Pingback: High-Speed Rail for Germany and Capacity Issues | Pedestrian Observations
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