Budget trains steam into Bahn monopoly

A new train service challenged Deutsche Bahn's monopoly of the German rail network on Monday, hitting the rails to take passengers between Hamburg and Cologne for as little as €20.

Budget trains steam into Bahn monopoly
Photo: DPA

“I expect that we will be working in profit in the coming year already,” said Henry Posner, head of the American investment firm Railroad Development Corporation, which has funded the Hamburg-Cologne Express (HKX).

The service set off from Hamburg at 6:35 on Monday morning, and arrived at 11:03am in Cologne – six minutes behind schedule.

The wagons were Rheingold models which date back to the 1970s, but fully cleaned for the start of their second maiden journey.

They were pretty much full on the return journey to Hamburg on this the first day of the new cut-price service.

Manager Eva Kreienkamp did not mention the problems with Deutsche Bahn over making the rails available which had delayed the service by two years. “The DB Network is currently cooperating very well,” she said.

The new service costs €20 from Cologne to Hamburg, €40 for the same trip in the other direction – as long as tickets are booked online – but €60 for either stretch when bought from the conductor on the train.

Deutsche Bahn’s regular price is €83 for the trip with its Intercity service, and €92 with the Intercity Express, although these prices are halved if the traveller has a Bahncard 50.

The Hamburg-Cologne connection will not be the last challenge to Deutsche Bahn’s monopoly – there are plans for another company to take it on along the Berlin-Cologne route by the end of this year.

DAPD/The Local/hc

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Swiss rail to close ticket counters in Zurich, Bern, Vaud, Ticino and Zug

Switzerland’s Federal Railways (SBB) will be removing the ticket counter from nine stations in the cantons of Zurich, Vaud, Bern, Zug and Ticino

Swiss rail to close ticket counters in Zurich, Bern, Vaud, Ticino and Zug

The SBB made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the decision was made due to a lack of demand. 

Instead, commuters will need to buy tickets from automated machines. 

In the canton of Zurich, the ticket stations in Dietlikon, Hinwil, Kloten, Männedorf and Oberwinterthur will be closed. 

In neighbouring Zug, Cham’s ticket counter will be closed, while the Herzogenbuchsee station in Bern will also go fully automated. 

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In Latin Switzerland, Pully in Vaud and Biasca in Ticino will see their ticket counters closed. 

The SBB told Swiss news outlet Watson that approximately 95 percent of ticket sales are now made via self-service machines or online. 

The advent of navigation apps has meant the need for personal advice on directions and travel has fallen, particularly in smaller areas or stations with lower traffic.