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Full trains - now the call for the double-decker ICE is getting louder

Despite all the delays, the train is being used more and more.

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Full trains - now the call for the double-decker ICE is getting louder

Despite all the delays, the train is being used more and more. Over Christmas, from December 22 to 28, the long-distance division of Deutsche Bahn AG recorded around 3.2 million passengers. That is 400,000 more than the previous Christmas peak of 2019. And because the Corona dent is also overcome at other times, one can ask whether ICEs have to offer more space for more passengers.

One can therefore ask whether high-speed trains, like many intercity and very many regional trains, should be double-decker. In France the TGV has it, the so-called Duplex has up to 30 percent more seating capacity and also runs in Germany on the route from Paris to Frankfurt/Main. With the Avelia Horizon model, the duplex manufacturer Alstom recently presented the next generation of high-speed double-decker trains.

But although Alstom (like Siemens) was recently commissioned by DB to develop the concept for the next ICE series - for a 300 km/h fast ICE 5 - the German state-owned company rules out double-deckering in this vehicle segment. As the ICE 5, which will be tendered as a specific procurement project in the coming year and is scheduled to go into operation in 2030, DB wants to have a 400-meter-long, significantly more energy-efficient train with around 950 seats - which should be on just one floor.

The rail policy spokesman for the Greens, Matthias Gastel, finds this preliminary determination unsatisfactory: "In my view, Deutsche Bahn is well advised to leave the decision open as to whether the ICE 5 will also remain single-deck or will be sent into the race as a double-decker train," said Gastel WORLD.

Instead of making a decision on this, “clear specifications, for example, for accessibility and space for passengers and their luggage should have been defined”. "Then we'll see," says Gastel, "how innovatively the railway industry reacts to this and what solutions it offers."

In Gastel's view, Germany "urgently needs significantly more capacity for the necessary switch from cars and planes to the more climate-friendly train". But the expansion of the rail infrastructure required for this would take up to 20 years or more. On the other hand, the first ICE 5 could be delivered in as little as nine years and would therefore provide relief relatively quickly. "Thanks to the higher number of seats, double-decker trains save on the scarce track and station capacities," says Gastel. "They could be used, for example, as sprinters on routes that are particularly popular."

In the DB you see it differently. But that's not due to what comes to mind first when traveling by train when it comes to fast double-decker trains: that some wagons swayed alarmingly. In the meantime, this has been remedied in the DB double-decker intercity trains affected, and the Swiss SBB's enormous difficulties with Bombardier's FV Dosto usually had other causes. There are no fluctuation problems with the Alstom duplex.

DB's decision to retain the ICE one-story system is based on the fact that it "fits much better with the existing infrastructure," as a company spokesman said when asked by WELT. All operating and deployment concepts as well as the equipment in the ICE maintenance workshops are designed for single-deck trains. In addition, very good acceleration of the trains is particularly important in the German network with the more frequent station stops compared to France. Single-deckers are superior here.

"Furthermore," said the Bahn spokesman, "with an aging society, we are avoiding stairs inside the train as a potential access barrier, creating an easier passage for all passengers. Boarding, toilets, access to the on-board restaurant – everything is on one level.”

In addition, single-story trains would give "a better sense of space". In fact, the top floor of a TGV duplex can sometimes seem cramped to German travelers and luggage space is very limited. However, this could possibly change if a train is completely redesigned.

What cannot be changed, however, is the German specialty that many platforms are very narrow. This becomes a problem when a large number of people want to get on and off. And on a double-decker train, there are even more people.

The resulting traffic jams almost inevitably cause delays in departures, which then disrupts the dense headway at major junction stations. So "the trains must allow for a quick change of passengers," emphasizes the DB spokesman. As a result, rail passengers in Germany will still not be able to look out over noise barriers from an ICE top floor in the future.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.

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