High-Speed Rail for Germany and Capacity Issues

After feedback regarding the post I wrote last month about high-speed rail in Germany, here is an updated proposal:

Blue indicates lines that already exist or are under-construction, the latter category including Stuttgart-Ulm and Karlsruhe-Basel. Red indicates lines that are not; some are officially proposed, like Frankfurt-Mannheim and the Hanover-Hamburg-Bremen Y, others are not but should be.

Würzburg and capacity

The primary difference with the older map is that there’s more service to Würzburg, connecting it to Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart, in addition to the already existing line north toward Hamburg.

The reason for the added connections is not so much that they are by themselves great. Würzburg is not a large city. The through-services have some value, but the Stuttgart-Würzburg line saves travelers from Stuttgart or Zurich to Hamburg or Berlin half an hour, which is nice but not a big game-changer. The Frankfurt-Nuremberg connection is likewise of noticeable but not amazing value: Munich-Frankfurt and Munich-Cologne are shortened by about 15 minutes, and Nuremberg itself gets direct service to Frankfurt and points northwest but is only a medium-size city.

Rather, the most important reason for these connections is capacity. Today, the Frankfurt-Mannheim railway is the busiest in Germany; a high-speed line between the two cities is proposed for capacity more than for speed. However, under a more expansive high-speed rail program, this line would soon reach capacity as well. The demand for trains connecting Frankfurt to Basel, Zurich, and Munich in two hours is likely to be high, at least a train every half hour to each. Moreover, all of these cities would be connected with Cologne in three hours, and Stuttgart would be three hours from Berlin and three and a half from Hamburg. Raw demand may turn the Frankfurt-Mannheim trunk into the busiest high-speed rail trunk in the world off-peak, even ahead of the Tokaido Shinkansen and its six off-peak trains per hour in each direction. Moreover, this trunk would exhibit complex branching, in particular entering Frankfurt from either direction for through-service to either Cologne or Berlin and Hamburg.

The Würzburg connections change this situation. Trains from Stuttgart to Hamburg and Berlin do not need to pass through Mannheim and Frankfurt, and trains from Munich to Frankfurt do not need to pass through Stuttgart and Mannheim.

Half-hourly frequencies

Paris-Marseille fills about two trains per hour most of the day, Paris-Lyon counting both Part-Dieu and the airport fills around 1.5 trains per hour off-peak and 4 per hour at the peak. The TGV averages higher seat occupancy than the ICE, about 70% vs. 50%, because it varies service by time of day and has practically no seat turnover. It also runs trains with more seats, about 1,100 on a TGV Duplex vs. 900 on a single-level Velaro. This means that for the same ridership, Germany needs to run about two-thirds more frequency than France, which for the most part means matching the frequency France runs at the peak all day.

The largest metro region in Germany is the Rhine-Ruhr, with around 10 million people, not many fewer than Paris. It is polycentric, which normally works against a region – passengers are more likely to be traveling to a destination far from the central train station – but in this case works in favor of it, since the east-west network branches and makes stops at all major cities in the region. The second largest region is Berlin, with around 5 million people, twice as many as Lyon and three times as many as Marseille. Comparing this with Paris-Lyon and Paris-Marseille, an all-day frequency of six trains every hour is reasonable, two connecting Berlin to each of Cologne, Wuppertal-Dusseldorf, and the Ruhr proper from Dortmund to Duisburg.

In general, it’s best to think of this system as a series of city pairs each connected every half hour. The following list looks reasonable:

  1. Hamburg-Berlin-Dresden-Prague
  2. Berlin-Duisburg
  3. Berlin-Dusseldorf-Amsterdam
  4. Berlin-Cologne-Aachen-Brussels
  5. Berlin-Bremen
  6. Hamburg-Bremen
  7. Berlin-Frankfurt-Saarbrücken-Paris
  8. Berlin-Munich
  9. Berlin-Stuttgart-Zurich
  10. Berlin-Leipzig
  11. Hamburg-Munich
  12. Hamburg-Frankfurt-Basel
  13. Amsterdam-Cologne-Frankfurt-Nuremberg-Munich
  14. Duisburg-Cologne-Frankfurt-Basel
  15. Duisburg-Cologne-Frankfurt-Stuttgart-Zurich
  16. Cologne-Frankfurt-Leipzig-Dresden-Prague
  17. Paris-Strasbourg-Karlsruhe-Munich
  18. Munich-Vienna
  19. Hamburg-Copenhagen

Not counting international tie-ins like Dresden-Prague, Munich-Vienna, or Aachen-Brussels, these lines total around 9,000 km with repetition, so the total service provision over 15 daily hours of full service is to be 540,000 train-km, maybe somewhat less if the weaker lines (especially Berlin-Leipzig) are served with single 200-meter trainsets rather than double trainsets. Filling seats at today’s rate, say with an average trip length of 350 km, requires ridership to be on the order of 250 million a year, which is about twice what it is today, and around two-thirds that of the Shinkansen. Germany has two-thirds Japan’s population, and the proposed network nearly doubles the average speed on a number of key city pairs, so at least on the level of a sanity check, this ridership level looks reasonable.

The half-hourly connections should be timed so that passengers have easy transfers on city pairs that do not have direct trains. For example, there are no direct Berlin-Karlsruhe-Basel or Hamburg-Stuttgart-Zurich trains, so the Berlin-Zurich and Hamburg-Basel trains should have a timed transfer at Fulda. A wrong-way timed connection between one of the Zurich-Stuttgart lines and the Munich-Stuttgart line toward Strasbourg should speed up Zurich-Munich travel, replacing the current slog through Austria.

Frankfurt, the center of the universe

Frankfurt is the most served station in this scheme, making it the key bottleneck: it has six connections in each direction, for a total of 12 trains per hour in each direction through the central tunnel. Berlin, in contrast, is the terminus on eight out of nine connections, so it only gets 10 trains per hour through the North-South Main Line (not counting Gesundbrunnen stub-ends), which has four tracks at any case.

The implication is that the Frankfurt tunnel should be used exclusively by high-speed trains, and regional trains should terminate on the surface. There may be capacity for a few regional connections in the tunnel, but unless they are extremely punctual, one delay would propagate to the entire country. An ICE network running largely on dedicated tracks would not have this problems – delays would be uncommon to begin with. In Berlin, the same is true in two tracks of the North-South Main Line; some regional trains can mix in the other two tracks, as well as on the express tracks of the Stadtbahn.

West of Frankfurt, eight trains per hour travel up the existing high-speed tracks to Cologne. This may be excessive, but six is not excessive given the sizes of the cities so connected. Passengers from all over central and southern Germany would have regular train access to Frankfurt itself as well as to the airport and some of the major cities of the Rhine-Ruhr. This is likely to be one of the two biggest long-distance bottlenecks, alongside Frankfurt-Mannheim, which is to get six trains per hour, two entering Frankfurt from the west to continue to Hamburg and four from the east to continue to Cologne.

Frankfurt’s position is not surprising given its geography. It’s near the center of western Germany’s north-south spine, right between the Rhine-Ruhr and the major cities of southern Germany and Switzerland. To its west lies Paris, two and a half hours away once a high-speed line to the French border opens. Berlin may be the larger city center, but it is located in Germany’s eastern margin, the capital of one historic state rooted in the east; Frankfurt is in a region that has always been denser and more economically developed, and high-speed rail is likely to strengthen its role as its distance from Paris and northern Switzerland is especially convenient by fast trains.

Additional connections

An environmental activist who saw the map asked why it was so thin in northwest Germany, mentioning a continuation of the line from Bremen to Oldenburg and even west to Groningen and Amsterdam as a possibility, as it has proven demand for intercity bus service. This connection may be prudent, I am not sure. My skepticism comes from the fact that northwest Germany does not have very big cities other than Hanover and Bremen, and medium-size cities like Oldenburg, Osnabrück, and Münster do not lie on convenient linear corridors.

Nonetheless, Oldenburg itself could be usefully served by a continuation of Berlin-Bremen or Hamburg-Bremen trains on legacy track. The same is true of a number of lines not indicated on the map, for example Hamburg-Kiel, or potentially some connections from Berlin and Hamburg to cities in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern branching off of the Berlin-Hamburg line. Moreover, among the four lines running on Frankfurt-Cologne, the one that does not run through to either Duisburg or the Netherlands could turn west to serve Aachen and maybe even continue to Brussels. Connections beyond Brussels are undesirable as Paris gets a faster direct link to Frankfurt, and London is a morass of delays due to border controls and Eurostar boarding slowness.

At the other end of the country, tie-ins to proposed tunnels across the Alps may be desirable. The problem is that these tunnels still leave the tracks with tens of kilometers of slow approaches that are not fixable without extensive tunneling. The air line distance between Zurich and Milan is 216 kilometers. The idea that a train could ever connect the two cities in an hour is complete fantasy, and even two hours is a stretch; Switzerland’s plans for the Ceneri and Zimmerberg base tunnels go down to about three hours. Farther east, the Brenner Base Tunnel’s northern portal is deceptively about a hundred kilometers by air from Munich, but half of that distance is across the Karwendel Alps and fast trains would require an entirely new route of complexity approaching that of the under-construction base tunnel.

Whither the Deutschlandtakt?

The Deutschlandtakt plan was meticulously developed over the years with the input of technical rail activists aiming to imitate Europe’s two best intercity rail networks, those of Switzerland and the Netherlands. Detailed maps of service in each region as well as nationwide for intercity trains are available, aiming to have timed connections between medium-speed trains wherever possible. But it is not the right way forward for a large country. With so many city pairs that high-speed trains could connect in two to four hours, Germany can and should build a network allowing trains to run largely on dedicated tracks, interlining so that most lines would see four to six trains per hour in each direction to ensure high utilization and return on investment.

At high service levels, trying to design lines to be utilized in bursts every half hour is not feasible or desirable. It’s more useful to space trains on intermediate connections like Berlin-Hanover to overlie to provide walk-up frequency, as high frequency is useful on short trips and encourages higher ridership. Moreover, key links like a tunnel through Frankfurt can’t really be used in bursts, as activists are pointing out in connection with Stuttgart 21. This is fine: Switzerland’s design methodology works well for a small country whose largest city would be Germany’s 16th largest, and Germany ought to see what France and Japan do that works and not just what Switzerland and the Netherlands do.

Is this feasible?

This high-speed plan does require high investment levels. But this is not outlandish. After fourteen years of stonewalling on climate change, with a flat fuel tax and more concern for closing nuclear plants than for closing coal plants, Angela Merkel has begun showing flexibility in face of massive climate change protests and announced a plan for a carbon tax.

Millennial and postmillennial Green voters lack the small-is-beautiful mentality of aging hippies. I did not see references to high-speed trains at the climate march a week ago (see selected signs on my Twitter feed), but I did see many calls for replacing cars with trains, and few small-is-beautiful signs, just one NIMBY sign against tall building and one anti-nuclear sign held by someone who looked 35-40 and someone who looked 60-70. Felix Thoma pointed out to me that as the Greens’ voter base is increasingly weighted in favor of educated millennials who travel often between cities, the next generation of the German center-left is likely to be warm to a national and international high-speed rail program.

The barrier, as always, is money. But Germany is not the United States. Costs here are higher than they should be, but they’re rarely outrageous – even Stuttgart 21 costs mostly in line with what one would expect such extensive regional rail tunnels to amount to. The core domestic network I’m proposing, that is excluding lines within Germany that are only useful for international connections like Stuttgart-Singen toward Zurich, adds 1,900 km of new high-speed rail, of which maybe 100 km is in tunnel. An investment of 60 billion euros would do it with some error margin.

A green future for Germany requires a network like the one I’m proposing. A green future can’t be one exclusively based around slow travel and return to the living standards of the early 20th century. It must, whenever possible, provide carbon-neutral alternatives to the usual habits that define modern prosperity. Trans-Atlantic travel may be too hard, but domestic travel within Germany is not, and neither is travel to adjacent countries: high-speed trains are an essential tool to permit people to travel conveniently between the major and medium-size cities of the country.


  1. Matthew Hutton

    Transatlantic could be a flight from Inverness, Scotland to St John in Newfoundland and high speed rail the rest of the way. That would be slower than today, but much faster than in the early 20th century. You could probably do London New York in ~18-20 hours (depending on how you get off Newfoundland), which is isn’t terrible.

      • ckrueger99

        I’ve often wondered how much GHG you save by taking the train NYP-MTL-Halifax, flying YHZ-DUB and train DUB-PAR compared with simply flying JFK-CDG.

        • Herbert

          Those things only make sense of whatever replaces current trains is limited in range. As soon as turbines enabled planes to leave out the fuel stop in Halifax, airlines stopped landing there, even tho it would be ideally positioned as a hub in the Keflavik vein

  2. ckrueger99

    This is an excellent, high-level analysis, wholely justified by numbers. I wonder how much of it is shovel-ready or nearly so?

    From an economic point of view, such a large, nationwide project is perfect for current conditions. Germany is about to lead the EuroZone into recession, but this fiscal stimulation would stop that. In fact, if pursued aggressively, it could add a bit of sorely needed inflation to Germany and, perhaps neighboring countries and those who export Gästarbeiters. Upon completion, it makes Germany much more productive in the continent-wide green economy, so it puts pressure on the other EZ economies to simultaneously lift their productivity games as well. This is easier to do under inflation than stagnation, as we’ve seen over the past decade.

    • Alon Levy

      Some of these lines are under active planning, like the Hanover-Hamburg-Bremen Y or Fulda-Frankfurt; the Frankfurt-Mannheim HSR line will probably begin construction soon and is assumed to exist in the Deutschlandtakt. In the case of the Y-Trasse the obstacle is NIMBYs.

      • Herbert

        Indeed. NIMBYs and DB caving in despite better knowledge is what currently keeps the Y from being built…

  3. IAN! Mitchell

    Under your “frankfurt: the center of the universe” heading, I find it extremely odd that Frankfurt Flughafen isn’t mentioned. The airport has intermittently been the busiest in mainland europe, and it logically makes more sense for trans-Atlantic travel than London, Istanbul, or Amsterdam. It already has a long-distance train station and through-checking of luggage (possibly even completion of security formalities) at origin stations rather than at the airport itself (as is done in Hong Kong). Sure, de-carbonizing long haul air travel isn’t practical; if only carbon could be recaptured from the atmosphere and sequestered…

    • Eric

      London has the advantage over Frankfurt that a connecting flight from there to anywhere in Europe is not “backtracking”. (Amsterdam has this advantage too, except regarding the UK.)

      • ASL

        A link of the HSR system to an expanded station at Munich airport would also be nice. Possibly a major northern airport like Berlin, too.

        Location of the connected airport is less about avoidance of “bactracking” and more about avoidance of people taking short haul flights to reach these intercontinental hubs. For example, when traveling north America to mid sizes cities like Nuremburg, Stuttgart, etc via Munich or Frankfurt it’s currently cheaper and more convenient to simply add the short connector flight even thought a simple train connector could be faster, more frequent, and with less environmental impact. Removal of the short haul flights by rail substitution also frees landing slots at the busy airports to accommodate more or better scheduled long haul flights.

        Related, some of the Heathrow capacity restrictions could be alleviated if there were direct rail connections onto HSR1 or HSR2 so that people don’t need to fly from Manchester to Heathrow to catch a long haul flight.

        • Herbert

          Yeah the NUE-MUC flights are the height of absurdity, but LH knows that if they didn’t offer them, pax would simply fly through CDG or AMS on the competition…

        • Sascha Claus

          Munich’s airport is on the wrong side of the city to be easily tied into any high-speed line to Germany. Prague is in this direction, and (!) the HSL to Vienna could swerve to serve the airport.

          Then all the other inner-German ICE routes (8, 11, 13 and 17 from Alon’s list) could be extended beyond Munich Hbf. one stop to the airport. Changing direction at Hbf. shouldn’t take longer than the neccessary dwell time.

          • Herbert

            Well, the only possibility would be a new built Ingolstadt Munich line via the airport…

          • ASL

            Build a HSR spur to connect the airport onto the Munich-Ingolstadt line or at least a HSR spur to the existing S-Bahn approach into airport.

            ICE trains coming north from Brenner pass already go through Munich East station on way to Hbf, so a spur from that line up to S-Bahn approach into airport will pick up that traffic and when demand warrants could be enhanced as part of a HSR bypass around Munich.

          • Alon Levy

            Isn’t there some Munich 21 plan for mainline through-tracks? Or is it dead? Because Frankfurt 21 is somehow actually happening if I understand Wikipedia right.

            But either way, the problem with a bypass around Munich is, where would trains even go? The demand for service from points east and south to Stuttgart/Frankfurt, let alone Nuremberg/points north, isn’t strong enough to justify dedicated frequencies. Trains could just serve Munich as they do today and passengers could transfer, or trains could reverse direction as they do today at Frankfurt and Stuttgart Hbf.

          • Herbert

            If Munich Verona did become a 2:20h affair there’d be demand for traffic to Italy…

            But maybe the Munich bypass should go via Regensburg anyway if one is needed at all…

          • Alon Levy

            There would be, but at 2:20, having trains start and end at Munich with transfers to domestic trains is attractive. Verona is not a large city; trip times to larger cities, at current average Italian HSR speeds, would be Munich-Milan in 3:00 and Munich-Rome in 5:00. The nearest large city that could take advantage of a Munich bypass is Frankfurt, around 1:30 away taking into account the lack of a stop at Munich or urban slowdown, so Frankfurt-Milan would be 4:30 (faster than with Stuttgart-Zurich HSR and planned AlpTransit investments but not by much) and Frankfurt-Rome would be an uncompetitive 6:30. The sort of people who’d take trains at such distance can transfer at stub-end terminals like Munich or (via AlpTransit) Milan.

          • Herbert

            Six thirty is an attractive night train travel time. Arriving or leaving at 3:00 AM in Munich is not attractive

          • ASL

            Spur from Munich-Ingolstadt HSR line into the Munich airport should be the priority; Alon’s map gets it very close already. Not every train going to airport needs to go to Hbf.

            The link into the airport from the south/east also has value (but probably lower priority due to cost) by allowing travel to the German alps with onward travel to Northern Italy or to Austria without the tedious S-Bahn ride into Munich Hbf. Munich will offer better and more frequent intercontinental flights than Verona, Innsbruck, etc.

            Once those are both constructed, there is effectively a bypass around Munich that also has value for certain services: seasonal high speed trains from the North and West could take the bypass and then transition onto legacy lines for ski or summer destinations. This is similar to Eurostar trains from UK that head to ski destinations and avoid stops in Paris.

      • Herbert

        If the EU and the US make a pact to tax all anaerobic sea sludge fuelled flights between and within them, you’ll get a huge amount of pressure to develop PtL. Maybe whoever wins in 2020 or 2024 will get on that from the U.S. side…

        If under such circumstances China sees a chance to lead in this technological field, they’ll stink a couple of billion into it…

        Every other country that refuses to play ball can always be blackmailed with the threat of being banned from EU/US airspace or getting less slots…

        • adirondacker12800

          It’s developed. They’ve been fooling around with it for almost century. Dump stuff in one and get whatever you want out the other. It’s expensive to do that.

          • Herbert

            But you can reduce its price if you get “too cheap to meter” solar electricity from the desert….

    • Alon Levy

      “Passengers from all over central and southern Germany would have regular train access to Frankfurt itself as well as to the airport and some of the major cities of the Rhine-Ruhr.”

      Compare also the route I’m drawing for Frankfurt-Saarbrücken on this map with the route I drew last month.

      That said, trying to construct airside HSR is a complete waste. Through-checking of luggage implies someone needs to take out passengers’ luggage at origin stations as well as at the airport station, and this is some affine combination of very labor-intensive and very slow. Security is even worse, since it means part of the train is airside and part is landside – there will never be enough demand for a fully airside train or even fully airside 200-meter trainset.

      My suspicion is that if this network is built, the most common destination from Frankfurt Flughaven by train will be Frankfurt Hbf by a huge margin. Here is a train system that connects the airport with city center in about 7 minutes every 5-10 minutes.

      • Herbert

        Back in the day trains did carry checked luggage that was through checked. If you put it in sealed ULDs, this should satisfy reasonable security requirements. You can do a secondary screening airside at FRA…

        • Alon Levy

          What were dwell times like back in the day? Because in the 2010s dwell times are pretty short, and European ones could be made shorter – the Shinkansen has 50 second dwell times except when a local is waiting at a station for an express to bypass it. This is especially important on a high-intensity line, like Frankfurt-Mannheim today or Frankfurt-Cologne in the future.

          • Herbert

            In the eighties Lufthansa even ran their own trains called “Lufthansa airport express”

        • michaelrjames

          “Back in the day”?
          What? You mean like in Hong Kong today? You can check-in at Hong Kong Central (if you are using the Airport Express train to HKI), ie. below the IFC mall, up to 36 hours in advance of your travel and not have to worry about your checked luggage again until you arrive wherever in the world you are headed. I don’t know how they do this, possibly with an extra carriage that attaches/detaches at both terminals? (I suppose it is possible they even use road transport?)
          Typically you’d do this in the morning of your last day in HK so you have the day free of those hassles and just head to the airport and pass thru “carry-on-luggage-only” check-in later the same day.
          It’s possible this is only available with Cathay Pacific but then that is the only airline I use for HK and onward to Europe flights. Do SIA offer this service for Singapore-Changi?

          • Alon Levy

            This doesn’t exist in Singapore. There’s no airport express there, just a branch off the regular East-West Line. In Hong Kong I think the context is dedicated platforms at both ends and 10-minute frequency, which is low enough at a two-track terminal. And even there it’s just boarding pass and luggage, not security.

      • Oreg

        As for the Frankfurt city connection, the ICE is not faster than the S-Bahn which takes 12 mins., goes every 10–15 mins and stops much closer to the gates.

      • michaelrjames

        At absurd expense. I despair when people say that kind of thing. It’s magical thinking (or magic pudding thinking) about where the energy to do it comes from, and what energy needs it displaces (until the world’s energy comes solely from renewable sources).
        Give it up Herbert, it’s serious nonsense.

        • Herbert

          We can use solar or wind at times their supply is so great they’d crash the grid…

          Yes this is a possibility. Yes, already. What we currently do is switch off power – including “free lunch” renewables – because that’s easier than switching on electricity consumers

          • michaelrjames

            No, that is just another version of magic puddingiste thinking. Your plants would have to be physically proximal to the solar plants. Our grid must solve the storage and transport problems to become truly green. And then our scheme would only become “economic” or sensible when there was a total excess of such energy. That’s not going to happen for a long time. It’s one of the major bugbears of all the current hydrogen boosterism.

            But funny enough I have suggested it could be possible with the French grid where so much of their nuclear capacity is ramped down overnight as it is in vast excess. It is the only nuclear industry in the world that does that, ie. load follows. Elsewhere the economics of nuclear power demand that it run at really high capacity, like 95+%, to repay its huge capital cost.

          • adirondacker12800

            I though nuclear was cheap. Which odd because I pay a few bucks more every month to keep them running. They can’t produce electricity as cheap as their competitors. Strange.

          • Eric

            Expanding the grid for CO2 capture would be a lot cheaper than building batteries to store the energy for the next evening/day. Or else you could just put the CO2 removal equipment in West Texas or Arizona right where the excess renewables are being generated.

      • michaelrjames

        Herbert, you are nothing more than a pudding thief!
        Or Marie-Antoinette in drag.

        The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff is an Australian children’s book written and illustrated by Norman Lindsay. It is a comic fantasy, and a classic of Australian children’s literature.
        The story is set in Australia with humans mixing with anthropomorphic animals. It tells of a magic pudding which, no matter how often it is eaten, always reforms in order to be eaten again. It is owned by three companions who must defend it against Pudding Thieves who want it for themselves.

  4. adirondacker12800

    I did see many calls for replacing cars with trains,

    The automobile genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going to be stuffed back in. A parking space and it’s section of aisle has enough area, covered with cheap PV, to charge a typical commute. There’s overnight excess wind and weekends. 200 mile/300 kilometer range is good enough, normal people have to get out of the car every few hours. That’s a week or two of commuting, the whiz bang smart grid can manage shifting demand around.

    one anti-nuclear sign

    It’s too expensive. It’s going to go away.

      • adirondacker12800

        How do you explain closing down already built plants because they are uneconomic? They cost too much to run.

        • Alon Levy

          That’s not why Germany closed down its plants early. It closed them down because the original New Left was against nuclear power due to its association with American nuclear weapons; Merkel herself doesn’t care about the New Left, but she closed the plants in order to triangulate, same reason Clinton cut welfare.

          • adirondacker12800

            That doesn’t change that existing plants are being closed down because they cost too much to run.

          • Herbert

            The owners fought a low level battle from 1998 to Fukushima to keep their old plants running until they fell apart. And until Fukushima it appeared they were winning…

            They did this because running an existing nuclear power plant is very lucrative unless you have to pay full cost of construction and future deconstruction

          • Oreg

            The closing of German nuclear plants was initiated not by a New Left but by the Third Way centrist Schroeder / Fischer administration in the “Atomkonsens” agreement with the plant operators. It had little to do with arms but a lot with the unsolved disposal of nuclear waste.
            When Merkel came to power she tried to stop the fade-out before reinstating it again.

          • Alon Levy

            Schröder was governing together with the Greens and was trying to appeal to people who were culturally leftish without being fans of high taxes and welfare benefits. Same appeal Merkel is going for now.

          • Herbert

            Whatever the greens are now, their origins are in the “New Left”

          • michaelrjames

            Oreg, 2019/09/29 – 19:06
            The closing of German nuclear plants was initiated not by a New Left but by the Third Way centrist Schroeder / Fischer administration in the “Atomkonsens” agreement with the plant operators. It had little to do with arms but a lot with the unsolved disposal of nuclear waste.
            When Merkel came to power she tried to stop the fade-out before reinstating it again.

            The original Schroeder-Fischer plan was to fade-out nuclear by 2036 and was a perfectly defensible plan, both politically and environmentally and fiscally (most of the plants would have been close to their end of commercial life and Germany could have got to 2036 without building new coal generators or burning as much Russian gas). It was Merkel who precipitously over-reacted to Fukushima in March by prematurely announcing in May shutting everything by 2022. After a lot of street protests provoked by Fukushima but I still consider it a telling lack of leadership by Merkel. As a scientist, she has a PhD in biophysical quantum chemistry, it was doubly unforgivable.

          • Oreg

            Alon, that’s pretty much the definition of the Third Way. A social-liberal administration better appeal to social-liberal voters.
            The Merkel administration that first reverted and then reinstated a fade-out was a center-right coalition with the business and nuclear-friendly FDP. They only reintroduced the fade-out when after Fukushima 80% of the population wanted to get out of nuclear power.

            Michael, the Schroeder-Fischer plan did not have an explicit end date but was expected to shut down the last nuclear plant by 2021. The Merkel bill extends this time by a year to 2022.

          • michaelrjames

            OK, it seems the later date was from when Merkel gained government in 2009 and changed the Schroeder-Fischer arrangement to extend the life of reactors closer to their original planned lives, some as long as 2036. This was changed back after Fukushima. In fact 8 closed in 2011, a total of 8.4GW.
            I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse from my p.o.v. re Merkel. Of course I understand that there was a lot of public sentiment for closing them but I think it was the wrong decision and can’t believe Merkel didn’t either (her earlier change to Schroeder-Fischer showed that) and this was pure populism. We need leaders who argue for the right thing, not just the transiently popular and emotional thing.

        • michaelrjames

          Adirondacker, it is entirely political.
          Once a nuclear power plant has repaid a majority of its capital cost (or it was government funded) then it really is the cheapest energy. This is not the case for fossil fuel generators such as coal which are often uneconomic after 30 years. It’s why in many jurisdictions the operating licenses are being extended to 60 years.
          Re Fukushima, it’s true that those plants were old, and 3 of the 6 Daiichi plants were shut down at the time awaiting upgrading and license extension (they sustained damage but without being already in cold-shutdown the disaster would have been worse). Of course they were among the oldest operating plants in the world and used the original Westinghouse design …

      • Jacob Manaker

        Didn’t some blogger write a trenchant analysis about how the nuclear industry has a trust problem? And so it has to be regulated very tightly to keep the public happy? And compliance with those regulations increases costs to the point that new plants are uneconomical?

        I wish I could remember who that blogger was. (Hint: it was you.)

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, and in Germany levels of trust in government are higher than in the US, if lower than in Sweden. The anti-nuclear movement here specifically connects nuclear power not to the German government but to the American military, since there was historically not much trust in the US on the German left, and increasingly also on the center as a result of Bush and the war on Iraq.

          • Herbert

            And now we have Antideutsche who are hard left Marxists and love U.S. Interventions…

    • Herbert

      Cars are antithetical to urban living. After a century of running the experiment we can safety say that.

      And urban living is only increasing in becoming the default human lifestyle

  5. Herbert

    I still don’t see why after seeing the light on Frankfurt Nuremberg you still don’t even mention Nuremberg Prague as the low hanging fruit of upgrading the legacy line. The right Pegnitz railway could serve as an S-Bahn, maybe up to Bayreuth. The Czech side has already electrified up to Cheb. And the shortest connection between Nuremberg and Dresden via Hof is already electrified on the Saxon side. So the existing rail line being electrified has three separate cases in its favor. However, that alone would probably not be enough to bring FRA-PRG travel times below 4 hours. For that at least some strategic bypasses are needed…

    • Alon Levy

      The route via Hof is so curvy that even though it’s more direct, the total Dresden-Nuremberg track distance (via Bamberg) is 414 km, a hair more than the HSR distance via Erfurt and Leipzig. Going via Beyreuth and Pegnitz isn’t much better, it shortens the route by 25 km but adds new slow segments.

      The Nuremberg-Prague route isn’t quite as bad – it’s 360 km on the legacy line via Cheb vs. probably around 540 on HSR via Erfurt, Leipzig, and Dresden. But getting the legacy line down to 2:30 to compete with HSR is probably not possible within the existing right-of-way geometry – lots of sub-400 meter curves that even tilting trains couldn’t take at higher speed than about 110 km/h. Replacing Nuremberg-Prague with a second HSR line to Czechia is possible, but probably requires a lot of tunneling across the border, and would only cut Frankfurt-Prague from 2:40 via Dresden to around 2:15. Not nothing, but probably not good enough.

      • Herbert

        Currently the thing http://www.bahn.de shows for Nuremberg-Prague trips as the fastest option is a bus (!) That takes three and a half hours. Even an unimproved legacy line with electrification can do better than that…

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, but not thaaaaat much better. At the average speed of Berlin-Cologne it’d be 3 hours, and Berlin-Cologne is fairly straight and has long segments at 200 and 250 km/h, no 380 meter curves.

          • Herbert

            Well I pointed out some side benefits for Nuremberg and Dresden. Note that they used to run diesel trains under wire On that line from Nuremberg to Dresden

          • Sascha Claus

            And only after Reichenbach/V. – Hof was electrified. Before that, DB ran fast diesel trains from Dresden to Nuremberg partially under wire.
            These trains were curtailed to Hof because the useless Reichenbach – Hof wire would be unused otherwise. (It would likely be useful if continued all the way to Nuremberg, but that’s waaaay beyond the mental horizon of the Saxon state government, which funded it.)

            Local trains were electric double-deckers Dresden – Zwickau and IIRC small diesel railcars Zwickau – Reichenbach – Hof. One gets the impression the change of trains wasn’t neccessitated alone by change of traction power.

          • Herbert

            The wire to Hof wasn’t useless, since a) it enables trains from Hof to enter the Leipzig city tunnel which bans diesel and b) Hof is exactly where the Saxon bestellt MRB trains and the DB regio trains meet…

            Now if they could get going about electrifying the right Pegnitz railway…

      • Herbert

        Wait, I missed a thing there… Why on earth do you want to Dresden Nuremberg via Bamberg?

          • Herbert

            No. Just go to http://www.bahn.de and let the intermediate stops of the direct trains show to check. The Bamberg-Hof line isn’t particularly fast, either…

  6. Herbert

    You mention the Brenner Base Tunnel and pooh-pooh its effect on pax travel…

    Do you know where the northern end of the access tunnels is?

    Salzburg. A city your Munich Vienna line seems to deliberately ignore even though that same line make a weird u-turn to serve similarly sized Linz…

      • Herbert

        Yeah, sorry, got those two cities confused, my bad.

        Still the current plan calls for a 230 km/h line from Munich…

          • Herbert

            It’s mentioned in the English Wikipedia article on the Brenner Base Tunnel. But I don’t think they cite a source…

          • Herbert

            “The northern approach from Munich within Germany is the 165 kilometres (103 mi) Grafing–Rosenheim–Kufstein route. The “Brenner Nordzulauf” (Brenner northern link) project aims to construct a high-speed line for speeds of up to 230 km/h (143 mph) between Grafing and Brannenburg in addition to the existing line, adapting the route’s capacity to the projected increase as a result of the BBT. The project has reached in-depth planning stages but suffers from lacking support by locals.[7] A more direct route between Munich and Innsbruck, for example, via Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald and Seefeld was not pursued, though it could have shortened the Munich Innsbruck line to 129 kilometres (80 mi). ”


          • Herbert


            In the introduction of this article, Wikipedia claims a target time of 2:20 h (down from 5:20 h) for Munich-Verona.

            If we add in three hours for the fastest Verona Rome train and four hours for the fastest Berlin Munich train under current schedules, that’d make a Berlin Rome night train in one night feasible…

  7. Richard Mlynarik

    A green future can’t be one exclusively based around slow travel and return to the living standards of the early 20th century.

    You write as if there is will be any choice. And as if the early 20th century (even for just for first world humans humans, even pre-antiobiotic and post-mechanized warfare) was less unpleasant than nearly every creature on the planet will find the 22nd century.

    • Alon Levy

      I mean, judging by what a certain continental superpower does, the living standards of the late 21st century will involve militarized border control with AI drones to shoot climate refugees to kill. (Arguably two continental superpowers, but one of them is genuinely building infrastructure for trains and electric cars for the herrenvolk in addition to concentration camps for the rest.)

      • adirondacker12800

        Get a grip, Swimming across the Pacific isn’t a viable threat. Anyway, nobody is going to want to burn things in new stuff somewhere around 2025.

          • adirondacker12800

            WIkipedia says it’s peak population was 1,233. And it’s empty at the moment. Get a grip.

          • michaelrjames

            Boating is, that’s why Australia has a concentration camp in Nauru.

            No. Nauru and Manus island were purely political over-reactions to a quite minor problem. Cooked up by Howard to win an election and then impossible to backtrack from ever since, by either major party. It was a version of the early 20th century ‘yellow peril’ hysteria.
            And BTW, the problem was Christmas Island which is 1600 km from the Australian west coast but only a few hundred km south of Java. This was exacerbated by Indonesia and Malaysia, both muslim-majority nations, having absurd zero visa requirements for inward travel from those middle-eastern trouble spots (most of which were made into trouble spots by Howard’s blind support of Bush-Blair’s wars), so these zero-status immigrants end up in camps of one sort or another, being exploited and neglected by the host nation governments and peoples … etc etc. They might get on boats on the southern coast of Java (an Indonesian people-smuggling business using clapped-out fishing boats) but they actually flew into the major airports in Djakarta and KL.

            An abominable chapter in our history, but not exclusively our doing.

  8. Herbert


    What do you think of this proposal or the even more ambitious one to bridge/tunnel from northern Rügen directly to Malmö. Its main advantages would be avoiding the congested Hamburg node for freight and making the rail distance between Berlin and southern Sweden shorter… However, at a great circle distance above 800 km, Berlin Stockholm is probably a bit too far, flygskam or not…

    • Alon Levy

      Hmmm. I could sort of see the case for doing that instead of going via Hamburg, but the Wikipedia article overstates it. Yes, Berlin is closer to Poland, which is nice, but Hamburg is closer to the Netherlands, the Rhine-Ruhr, France, and Belgium.

  9. df1982

    Is it worth having a Y-link north of Nürnberg to service Berlin-Stuttgart directly, rather than going through Frankfurt? It would potentially relieve the Frankfurt bottleneck and offer a slight improvement on travel times (ca. 2.5h instead of 3h).

    • Alon Levy

      I tried looking at this, actually… the route from Stuttgart and Würzburg to Erfurt via Fulda is faster than via a Nuremberg Y. Entering Würzburg from the west rather than the east is somewhat less awkward, but then going via a Nuremberg Y involves a longer travel distance than going via Fulda, and it turns out to take longer even with higher top speed and no intermediate stop at Fulda.

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