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‘Trains of the future’: German rail operator plans huge modernisation

Germany's national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, is launching a modernisation offensive and plans to invest more than €19 billion in new trains over the next few years.

The ICE 3 Neo under construction
The ICE 3 Neo under construction. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

On Wednesday, Deutsche Bahn announced plans for its largest modernisation programme to date.

The record sum of €19 billion will help create the capacity needed to meet increased demand, as well as more modern vehicles which will help make the network more climate-friendly and reliable. 

“We are now investing in the trains of the future,” CEO Richard Lutz told the Innotrans rail technology trade show in Berlin on Wednesday.

At the trade show, Deutsche Bahn also showed what the regional train of the future may look like and presented a new double-decker wagon. It included special office cabins and family areas, which will go into service in Bavaria from spring 2023.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best night trains running through Germany

To enable more people to switch from cars to trains, the company says that around extra 450 highspeed ICE trains will run through Germany in 2030 and, next year, three new ICE trains will hit the tracks every month.

Over the next few years, Deutsche Bahn will be buying trains for long-distance services at a cost of around €10 billion – most of which will be spent on the ICE 4, while around €2.5 billion have been earmarked for 73 ICE 3 Neo trains, the first of which will go into service in December.

The end of Covid restrictions and the introduction of the €9 ticket at the beginning of June has recently given a huge boost to passenger numbers on buses and trains in Germany.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the successor to Germany’s €9 ticket

According to the Federal Statistics Office, almost 4.8 billion passengers used regular train services in the first half of 2022 alone – over 36 percent more than in the first six months of the previous year.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Planning to travel by train across Europe but not sure where to start? Here are the best websites to help make it happen.

UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Travelling across Europe by train is quickly becoming the preferred mode of transport for many people – mostly due to environmental concerns.

For others though, making the switch from cars or planes to trains is not so simple.

With planes, there are well-known websites like Skyscanner and Expedia, which makes it easy to find cheap flights. As well good connections across the continent from most major airports.

Then there is the convenience of travelling by car, which can be hard to beat – especially for those living in more rural areas. 

So what are the options for trains? Are there websites like Skyscanner but for train travel? And where can you find cheap tickets or the best routes?

Here are the websites you need to know when planning a trip across Europe by train.

Seat 61

The Seat 61 website provides tips on how to travel comfortably and affordably by train, while aiming to help visitors to rediscover the “pleasure, romance  and adventure of the journey”.

It includes an introduction to train travel in Europe, as well as an extensive search feature to find trains by starting location.

For example, The Local searched for trains from Salzburg to Italy and found routes to Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples, including on Nightjet sleeper trains.

The guide then describes the features of the Nightjet service, such as air conditioning, showers and room service all useful information for any newbies starting out with train travel.

Seat 61 is run by Mark Smith, a train enthusiast and former manager at the UK Department of Transport.

READ MORE: Discover Austria: 19 ways to make the most of autumn this year

Trainline

The Trainline is an international platform focused on train travel. The company is based in the UK but has extensive coverage of train travel in 45 countries across Europe.

The aim of the Trainline is find to the cheapest tickets for a selected route. Most of the time, this means booking in advance.

The site also highlights some great offers, such as €7 tickets between Barcelona and Madrid, and Paris to Amsterdam from €20.

As an added bonus, the search function on the Trainline is very user-friendly and allows people to search by location, as well as add extras such as railcards or return tickets.

The Trainline can be accessed via the website or app.

Rail Europe

Rail Europe is a leading distributor of European train tickets. The website covers 25,000 destinations and 11,000 routes across the continent.

The search function on Rail Europe works in a similar way to other websites and users can view tickets by destination to get the best price. It’s also possible to purchase railcards direct from Rail Europe.

Additionally, the site includes a useful overview of the latest ticket releases and sales, such as special offers on journeys between Paris and Geneva.

Users can pay for tickets in Euros, Sterling or Dollar (US, Canada and Australia) on the website or the app.

Rail Europe is headquartered in Paris but was founded in New York in 1932.

READ ALSO: Ryanair to raise flight ticket prices in Austria

Interrail

The Interrail Pass is a railcard that is available for residents in Europe. For people that live outside of Europe, they can purchase the Eurail Pass.

The passes are aimed at backpackers, or anyone spending time travelling across Europe.

The Interrail website has details about the different passes on offer under the umbrella of Interrail, like the Global Pass, One Country Pass and the German Rail Pass

For example, prices for the One Country Pass for Spain start at €182 for three days of travel within one month. Or you can pay €235 for five days of travel within one month.

Whereas the Global Pass starts at €251 for seven days of train travel in one month, but goes up to €677 for a three month unlimited travel ticket.

Interrail or Eurail Pass holders can buy tickets and make reservations via the desktop website or the Rail Planner app.

Omio

Omio is a travel platform where you can book train, bus and flight tickets. It has a free app to download or users can search and book on the website.

The Omio site has a dedicated section just for train travel. It even highlights 28 routes in Europe that are faster by train than plane – as well as the amount of carbon dioxide saved on the trip.

Examples are London to Brussels, which takes just two hours, or Frankfurt to Cologne in one hour.

There is also a handy FAQ section with information about booking train tickets in Europe, baggage conditions and travelling with pets.

At the time of writing, The Local found a ticket from Zurich to Vienna on Omio for €60 (when searching for dates two months in advance).

READ NEXT: ‘A great day for consumers in Europe’: EU votes for single smartphone charger

National rail operators

Aside from the five websites detailed above, it’s also worth checking out the websites of national rail operators to find deals and travel passes.

Here are the rail operators for each country covered by The Local.

Austria: Visit oebb.at to find Sparschiene (cheap/discounted) tickets on selected routes across the country. Tickets can also be booked for the Nightjet (overnight rail service).

Denmark: DSB is the national rail operator in Denmark. Timetables and tickets can be found at dsb.dk, including discounts for travelling outside of rush hours. 

France: Rail operator SNCF can be found at sncf.com. The website even has a guide on how to save money on rail travel in France.

Germany: Deutsche Bahn is Germany’s national rail service. Visit bahn.com to find cheap tickets for travel within Germany and throughout Europe.

Italy: Train tickets in Italy can be purchased at italiarail.com. You can even get a free Italian phrase ebook if you sign up to the Italia Rail newsletter.

Norway: Travellers can check prices and book tickets in Norway at norwaytrains.com. Most trains in Norway are operated by SJ or Vy trains.

Spain: Renfe is the leading train operator in Spain and can be found at renfe.com. The website has a page dedicated to discounts and another where you can buy tickets for luxury tourist trains.

Sweden: SJ is Sweden’s national rail operator. Tickets can be bought at sj.se, including annual passes and special offers.

Switzerland: Visit sbb.ch for tickets on Switzerland’s national rail network. The website is available in four languages (English, German, French, Italian) and features offers like Supersaver tickets and the GA Travelcard.

Do you have other suggestions for websites we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below or email [email protected]

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