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Auf wiedersehn, jet
September 20, 2010 4:30 AM   Subscribe

On the 19th of October, a Deutsche Bahn ICE3 train will travel from Germany to London through the Channel Tunnel.

The train will not be carrying passengers; it will be involved in a safety exercise in the Tunnel, before making an appearance at St. Pancras International. Assuming that safety tests (of which there are many) go well, Deutsche Bahn expect to start a service between Frankfurt and London, via Cologne and Brussels, by the end of 2013. The full passenger journey is expected to take between 4 and 5 hours, making it competitive with scheduled air travel. This will be the first direct rail connection between Britain and Germany; at the moment, Channel Tunnel trains travel only as far as France and Belgium.
posted by acb (60 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I took Amtrak from Dallas to Chicago and it took 28 hours. Not kidding.
posted by punkfloyd at 4:38 AM on September 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


This is very exciting news. I have done the London-to-Frankfurt and Frankfurt-to-London trip via ICE train plus Eurostar several times; an ICE3 train all the way would not only be faster but also SO much more comfortable than standard class on Eurostar.

And I'm not at all a train nerd, but I'm a little bit tempted to go to St. Pancras on the 19th to look for the ICE3 train.
posted by sueinnyc at 4:41 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assuming that safety tests (of which there are many) go well ... This will be the first direct rail connection between Britain and Germany; at the moment, Channel Tunnel trains travel only as far as France and Belgium.

Expect it to go through without a hitch. The Germans don't have much trouble getting through France and Belgium.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:44 AM on September 20, 2010 [73 favorites]


The downside, of course, is at the end of your journey you wind up in either London or Frankfurt.
posted by cmonkey at 4:44 AM on September 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


It already takes only 5 hours on Eurostar to get from London to Avignon, which is in the south of France. So, is the real news here that Eurostar has a competitor? That it is easier to get from specifically UK to Germany?

If it is the former then this is great news. I love Eurostar (London to Paris in 2 hours!) but it is too pricey for what it offers.
posted by vacapinta at 4:56 AM on September 20, 2010


...SO much more comfortable than standard class on Eurostar.

Is this true? I think the standard class on Eurostar is rather nice, but I've never been on an ICE3. What makes it better? More space? This picture of the interior doesn't look all that different from the Eurostar interior. I have to admit that the idea of going that fast and being able to look forward and get the driver's view is enticing, however.
posted by tractorfeed at 4:56 AM on September 20, 2010


I really enjoyed the Eurostar. It's a very civilized way to travel. I'll be delighted to add Germany to the list of possible high speed rail destinations.

However, I was completely disappointed by the lack of fanfare for going through the Chunnel. It's a freaking engineering marvel and they seem to want to pretend it isn't happening!
posted by srboisvert at 4:56 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


However, I was completely disappointed by the lack of fanfare for going through the Chunnel. It's a freaking engineering marvel and they seem to want to pretend it isn't happening!

Heh, I said the exact same thing the first time. You go through some longish tunnels in Kent, then a slightly longer one, and then all the signs out the windows are in French. I thought there would be some kind of announcement or light or something!

Given that I have a few friends who had a minor freak out on a visit to London when they realised that the tube was going under the river, pretending that the tunnel crossing isn't happening may be a sound business decision.
posted by generichuman at 5:08 AM on September 20, 2010


Freaking fantastic ... as it would be logical to add Amsterdam as a stop.

Brittish and French rail must be pissed about this ... it is effectively breaking a monopoly.
posted by jannw at 5:10 AM on September 20, 2010


I love Eurostar (London to Paris in 2 hours!) but it is too pricey for what it offers.

I beg to differ. I've just booked a number of journeys between Sheffield and Paris. The price varied between £120 and £180 (the Eurostar bit of the ticket being between £70 and £130), which makes it not only the quickest way to travel between Sheffield and Paris, but also the cheapest.
That's not to say it's not great news that there's going to be competition to hopefully bring the price down further. And those ICE trains are in a different league to the Eurostar IMO, in terms of comfort.
posted by chill at 5:12 AM on September 20, 2010


ICEs are vastly more comfortable than TGVs because ICEs offer power for laptops. Eurostar trains are also TGVs, but they are equipped with power plugs, albeit using silly British plugs.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:14 AM on September 20, 2010


So, is the real news here that Eurostar has a competitor? That it is easier to get from specifically UK to Germany?

Both, although the former is more significant in the long term, as it signals the start of serious cross-border competition in the European railway market, with Deutsche Bahn pointedly treading on the toes of the French SNCF, main shareholder of Eurostar.
As long as this doesn't end with Michael O'Leary running trains, I'm cool with it.
posted by Skeptic at 5:21 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


tractorfeed, it's hard to tell from the photo, but ICE standard carriages have way more legroom than Eurostar standard carriages and the seats feel wider and more comfortable as well. They are brighter and more spacious, and there are lots of little perks such as a display screen at the end of the carriage. As someone who used to use Eurostar for an average of one roundtrip a week, I'm very happy when I get to take an ICE train.

Eurostar trains do not have power plugs in standard except in Carriage 5, where the savvy frequent travelers congregate. But even in Carriage 5, they only have one per pair of seats and on a bad day you have two single business travelers squished together with only one power plug for the two of them.
posted by sueinnyc at 5:23 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


It isn't the end of air travel along this route. Anyone who has travelled through Frankfurt know that, while it is a fine airport with reasonable amenities and good connections, it is way, way overused in Europe.

Taking some of the pressure off some of these locations that were designed for air travel in the 70s is a good thing, and benefits the entire transport industry.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:24 AM on September 20, 2010


Can has fast rail?
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hooray for trains! Boo for planes!
posted by Eideteker at 5:39 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Expect it to go through without a hitch. The Germans don't have much trouble getting through France and Belgium.

Not always.
posted by ersatz at 5:40 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can has fast rail?

You mean these guys? No, they're not together anymore.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 AM on September 20, 2010


Man... our European Mefites get all the neato stuff, like a responsible social safety net and drop dead sexy high speed rail transit. Not that the Eurozone is all peachy-keen, I imagine that there are problems that many of us North American mefites are not aware of.

But OMFG that train is SEXY!!! WANT!
posted by PROD_TPSL at 5:50 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


jeffburdges: Eurostar trains are also TGVs, but they are equipped with power plugs, albeit using silly British plugs.

Not completely true. When I booked Eurostar tickets earlier this year some rows (or was it cars?) had EU outlets and others had UK outlets.
posted by c0nsumer at 6:13 AM on September 20, 2010


I took a Dueche Bahn train from Frankfurt to Paris this summer and it was comfortable, but nothing mind blowing. Interiors were very reminiscent of Amtrak in terms of comfort, leg room, etc... It was supposed to have wifi and power outlets but neither worked. Other than that, seemed like a pretty normal train ride.
posted by jourman2 at 6:34 AM on September 20, 2010


*Deutsche Bahn
posted by jourman2 at 6:35 AM on September 20, 2010


ICE trains sell German beer in tall glasses (there's confidence in your train for you - probably need to hold on tight to them when the train reaches the UK). Good German beer.

They also sell super-stinky German sausages in a toxic sauce ... but then once you've had a few tall German beers, they seem fantastic.
posted by rolandroland at 6:52 AM on September 20, 2010


some rows (or was it cars?) had EU outlets and others had UK outlets.

It's rows -- coaches 5 and 14 have alternating rows Continental/UK plugs. My partner, who used to commute weekly to the UK from Paris, asked a Eurostar rep whether there were plans to upgrade the rest of the coaches, and the response was "not anytime soon."
posted by tractorfeed at 6:55 AM on September 20, 2010


"Don't mention the war." - Basil Fawlty
posted by wenestvedt at 6:58 AM on September 20, 2010


It's rows -- coaches 5 and 14 have alternating rows Continental/UK plugs. My partner, who used to commute weekly to the UK from Paris, asked a Eurostar rep whether there were plans to upgrade the rest of the coaches, and the response was "not anytime soon."

Perhaps competition from Deutsche Bahn will force their hand on this during their next upgrade/refurbishment? After all, the Eurostar fleet is aging, and the ashtrays that take the place of power sockets in the other carriages aren't of much use.
posted by acb at 6:59 AM on September 20, 2010


Something else to factor in here is that the high-speed London to Folkestone rail link is up for sale (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10363332), and of course Deutsche Bahn may be one of the contenders to buy it.

Apart from anything else, that would be odd wouldn't it - a large chunk of UK infrastructure owned by a German state owned company? We break up our train network to have a love-in with the glories of hyper-capitalism only to be owned by a state company.

The Daily Mail will explode ....
Anyway - I digress.
posted by rolandroland at 7:00 AM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


> The Daily Mail will explode ....

That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by chavenet at 7:18 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is great news and a great punny title to the post to boot.
posted by ob at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


... a large chunk of UK infrastructure owned by a German state owned company? We break up our train network to have a love-in with the glories of hyper-capitalism only to be owned by a state company.

Swap train for electricity, and German for French and you have the situation with EDF.
posted by greymullet at 7:40 AM on September 20, 2010


Apart from anything else, that would be odd wouldn't it - a large chunk of UK infrastructure owned by a German state owned company? We break up our train network to have a love-in with the glories of hyper-capitalism only to be owned by a state company.
CAPITALISM FAIL!!!!

Sometimes, I really do think that we beg and grovel for what we receive in turn.

Living in the United States can be quite depressing.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 7:49 AM on September 20, 2010


Meanwhile, I have to drive almost 200 miles before I'm in a city with any passenger rail at all.

Maine, you suck.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:59 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


w00t!

The guardian is using the wrong picture. that's an old I.C.E. 1. you can actually see through the front window in the current version, which is just awesome at 200 mp/h.

now all we need is a decent connection to amsterdam. seriously, hamburg-amsterdam takes 5 to 8 hours by train right now. someone finally build a high-speed link there.
posted by krautland at 8:07 AM on September 20, 2010


I once took Eurostar from London to Paris with a British friend, who promptly fell asleep because she'd done the trip a score of times before. The train left and arrived exactly on time. I was expecting to feel some sort of thrill about going under the Channel, but there was no announcement re same, and I only really noticed we'd done so after the train popped up out of the tunnel. And there was France, with its much larger farms, fewer built-up areas and, so it seemed, a bigger, sunnier sky. On the return trip (alone), I snoozed the whole way to London. My ticket also let me use the Underground (but not le Métro) on the travel days. Handy!
posted by drogien at 8:08 AM on September 20, 2010



that would be odd wouldn't it - a large chunk of UK infrastructure owned by a German state owned company?
The Daily Mail will explode ....


It would not be the most radical change to our (rail) transport sector, considering Deutsche Bahn already own "rail freight company EWS in the UK, which also operates the British Royal Train", and "concluded talks to takeover the UK-based transport firm Arriva in April 2010". (Quoth WP)

I know that's not infrastructure exactly, but if infrastructure is the dividing line, well, look at Grupo Ferrovial (Spain) owning BAA (Heathrow, et al), the ports owned by Dubai, Canada, etc.
posted by Slyfen at 8:10 AM on September 20, 2010


Deutsche Bahn already own several British rail companies (Chiltern Rail, Arriva and the freight operator EWS, if I recall correctly).

In Germany, their services are superb. (I had the privilege of travelling from Paris to Berlin and back on a DB CityNightLine sleeper recently, and would highly recommend the experience*.) Of course, in Germany, they are answerable to the German citizens who indirectly own them, something that is not the case in Blatcherite Britain.

* Granted, I travelled in first class (I booked just under two months in advance, and so it was quite cheap). I travelled economy class once before, and that was good as well.
posted by acb at 8:13 AM on September 20, 2010


Brittish and French rail must be pissed about this

Doubtful. The UK Train operators could never work out the logistics or economics for running through-services via the Channel Tunnel (ie. Edinburgh to Paris). They even bought the railcars to do it before the plans were formally scrapped. There was a sleeper service in the works somewhere along the line that also got canned.

SNCF (the French rail company) already provides much better Eurostar connectivity within its system, running occasional trains to the south of France via the extensive LGV network. No major reason for them to be angry, except that it'll reduce traffic at Gare de l'Est (a good or bad thing, depending upon your perspective).

Italy have also expressed interest in running through the chunnel.
posted by schmod at 8:14 AM on September 20, 2010


Is this true? I think the standard class on Eurostar is rather nice, but I've never been on an ICE3. What makes it better?

been on both and it's very true. the ICE has a very nice interior. lots of space, nice colors, comfortable seats with good legroom, tables, some trains have t-mobile wifi. it's also incredibly smooth and quiet. the eurostar on the other hand is cramped and dingy.

1, 2, 3, 4, other flickr ICE photos.
posted by krautland at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2010


The Germans don't have much trouble getting through France and Belgium

In extending the rail link to St. Petersburg, however, they may find themselves snowed under with paperwork.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:19 AM on September 20, 2010


The UK Train operators could never work out the logistics or economics for running through-services via the Channel Tunnel (ie. Edinburgh to Paris). They even bought the railcars to do it before the plans were formally scrapped. There was a sleeper service in the works somewhere along the line that also got canned.

Wouldn't sleeper services in the Channel Tunnel fall foul of safety requirements to make them quickly evacuable?

(I hope that's not the case, as I'd like to see sleepers from London to places on the Continent, such as, say, Berlin or Copenhagen.)
posted by acb at 8:24 AM on September 20, 2010


the eurostar on the other hand is cramped and dingy.

The Eurostar, mind you, is narrower than continental European services (including most TGVs), built to the narrower British loading gauge as to be able to fit into British stations and tunnels. (Train bodies, and the spaces between platforms, are wider on the Continent than in Britain.)

I'm guessing that the HS1 link, or at least the length of line from St. Pancras to the tunnel, is built to accommodate European trains. Either that or Deutsche Bahn have invested in a narrower, British-specification variant of the ICE3.
posted by acb at 8:28 AM on September 20, 2010


Wouldn't sleeper services in the Channel Tunnel fall foul of safety requirements to make them quickly evacuable?

I believe that economics killed that proposal. There were few routes that were long enough to warrant a sleeper service that had enough traffic to make service to France economically viable, especially considering the immigration/customs logistics that the UK imposes on cross-border travelers.

Although sleeper trains are *nice*, it's far easier for the rail company to offer early-morning services out of London, given that Paris is only 3 hours away, and Frankfurt is only 4-5 hours away. Leave at 6; be at your meeting by 10.

Once the UK's high speed tracks up to Scotland are complete, I do imagine that we'll see (very limited) Eurostar services from Edinburgh, and possibly Glasgow. However, I doubt they'll have proper sleeper berths.
posted by schmod at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2010


I'm guessing that the HS1 link, or at least the length of line from St. Pancras to the tunnel, is built to accommodate European trains.

Yes, it's built to the GC loading gauge.
posted by grouse at 8:49 AM on September 20, 2010


I hope that's not the case, as I'd like to see sleepers from London to places on the Continent, such as, say, Berlin or Copenhagen.

I would love to be able to go to sleep in Edinburgh and wake up in Paris or Berlin. There's already a sleeper service to London, it would be complete magic to have a through-service.

Never happen of course - obligatory 'state of the railways' rant.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:05 AM on September 20, 2010


My first and only Eurostar experience was quite pleasant until partway through the Channel Tunnel there was some sort of possible mechanical issue. Everything was fine after a 10 minute or so inspection, but unfortunately once they have to inspect, they then have to go halfspeed or less for the rest of the trip for (I'm sure very sensible) safety reasons. Still, considering the state of rail in the U.S., the train was still going faster than they generally can go around here.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:15 AM on September 20, 2010


This is nothing, the ICE-9 train runs on top of the Channel.
posted by storybored at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I took Amtrak from Dallas to Chicago and it took 28 hours. Not kidding.

Well, c'mon. It's twice as far from Dallas to Chicago than Frankfurt to London.

/me weeps quietly for the country he could have had...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:26 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I believe that economics killed that proposal. There were few routes that were long enough to warrant a sleeper service that had enough traffic to make service to France economically viable, especially considering the immigration/customs logistics that the UK imposes on cross-border travelers.


Other border crossings with passport control work easily enough. You hand your passports over to the attendant, the border police look through them at the border (while you sleep), and you get them back in the morning. That's what happens when you transit through Switzerland (i.e., Paris-Rome), for example.
posted by acb at 9:48 AM on September 20, 2010


I believe that economics killed that proposal. There were few routes that were long enough to warrant a sleeper service that had enough traffic to make service to France economically viable, especially considering the immigration/customs logistics that the UK imposes on cross-border travelers.

What about sleeper services out of/into London? I imagine that there could be a market for sleepers between London and, say, Berlin, Rome or Madrid. (There is for sleepers from Paris to these destinations.)
posted by acb at 9:51 AM on September 20, 2010


Can has fast rail?

Here is America's response.
posted by Tacodog at 9:52 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, come on then, before zee Germans get here...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:54 AM on September 20, 2010


I believe that economics killed that proposal. There were few routes that were long enough to warrant a sleeper service that had enough traffic to make service to France economically viable, especially considering the immigration/customs logistics that the UK imposes on cross-border travelers.

Whenever I've taken night trains in Europe, they've always been made up of carriages going to all sorts of destinations and the trains are split up at various points (e.g. Cologne) with some carriages going one way and others to a totally different destination. So I've always wondered why you don't have at least a single Eurostar length train going to different locations that is split up when it reaches Lille or wherever. That would seem economically viable. Maybe the types of carriages that could be connected to Europe's overnight network aren't a match for the types of carriages that can be taken on a high speed link through the channel tunnel.
As for border crossings, I took a rail journey from Brussels to Moscow, and then Moscow to Beijing, and the only "tricky" order crossing was Belarus and then leaving Russia. But it shows it's possible even in the most "unwelcoming" of countries (which former Soviet countries certainly were!).
posted by chill at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2010


I love trains. Eurostar from London to Brussels was fabulous, despite the excruciatingly painful pressure change when we hit the tunnel. DB from Frankfurt to Leipzig was delightful - and you could smoke! The local and regional trains in Finland were AWESOME. Even the trains in the UK were good.

So now that I'm back stateside, I really should check out the trains here. I mean, how bad could they be? Let's see... Los Angeles to Dallas (a trip I make fairly regularly) is a 3 hour non-stop flight and costs $327 round trip. Unfortunately, you have to deal with TSA security theater, the occasional misplaced piece of luggage, and cramped, uncomfortable seats.

Amtrak takes 46 hours out and 66 hours back (!) and costs $389. You don't get a sleeper, just a partially reclining seat, and no shower as far as I can tell. Driving takes 23 hours.

Sadly, when you mention high speed rail in the US (or even passenger rail not having to yield to commercial traffic EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. ) people start screaming ZOMG COMMIES!
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 10:36 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"rail freight company EWS in the UK, which also operates the British Royal Train",

***cough***Saxe-Coburg***cough*** No, no Germans here, nosirree!
posted by zoogleplex at 10:37 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've ridden the ICE3 twice now and loved it. There's a lot of leg room, ample lighting, plugs for just about everyone, and the handy monitors to tell you what stops are coming up. The best part by far though was on the train to Copenhagen from Berlin. You come up upon this dock and then THEY LOAD THE TRAIN ONTO A BOAT! And then you get out of the train and ride the huge ferryboat across the channel. And then you get back on the train which is inside the giant cargo hold with rails and you pop out of the boat and you're in Denmark!
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:51 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


*looks out the window at the vast empty western landscape and pines for high speed rail service to anywhere*
posted by msbutah at 1:50 PM on September 20, 2010


I have to say that I do find train travel much more enjoyable than flying. Yes, a two hour flight is a six-hour train ride, but if you take away the travel to the airport, the ticketing, the bullshit TSA clowns pretending to actually do something while slowing you down, not to mention the horseshit they always pull once you're in the air and the added travel from the airport to the city of your choice can add a couple of hours, if not more, to your short trip.

It pains me to no end that all of this fast train travel has evolved so much in Europe ove the past fifteen years and meanwhile the US of A has done little else besides bestow the SUV upon its subjects or pretend that the Acela is more than just an expensive drag-racer. There is absolutely no reason why the US is falling behind on this.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:41 PM on September 20, 2010


This is fantastic news and should make it even easier for me to avoid flying between central Europe and the UK. Combine it with a sleeper and you won't be able to get the grin off my face with a shovel.

Recently I had a 200 minute delay for an international overnight service out of Cologne station. Annoying, but I've had longer delays in airports and they are really miserable places to while away the hours. Rather than being stuck staring at an identikit duty-free shop, a cheery German sailor and I took turns watching our luggage while the other went for walks. I took the opportunity to stare some more at the floodlit Koln cathedral and drank bier. Even when trains are crap, they're great.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:56 PM on September 20, 2010


Eurostar from London to Brussels was fabulous, despite the excruciatingly painful pressure change when we hit the tunnel.

My ears popped for all the tunnels except the chunnel. My guess was the channel tunnel was wide enough that there wasn't a pressure wall caused by the train.
posted by srboisvert at 4:27 PM on September 20, 2010


acb> I am fairly certain I would have heard about it had DB built another ICE3 but I will give you that the eurostar is not as wide. alas, it's the drab and dingy interior, not the width, that I tried to comment upon. scratchy gray seats on gray carpet with a bit of nothing and airline-like legroom aren't exactly great. the ICE will be a great improvement in terms of passenger comfort.
posted by krautland at 5:01 AM on September 21, 2010


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