Germany's super train rolls

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

This hi-tech speedster puts the future on the rails. Ernest Gill reports from Hamburg on life on the fast tracks.

Unemployment is soaring and the stock market is plunging, but thousands of jubilant Germans turned out in towns between Cologne and Frankfurt to cheer as Germany's new super high-speed train made its first scheduled run.

The Inter-City Express III (ICE-3) train, gleaming white with a red line from end to end, hits speeds of up to 300kmh as it made the 170-km run between the two cities in just a little over 80 minutes.

That is an hour quicker than conventional trains and several minutes faster than the earlier 1990s generations of ICE high-speed express trains which the new third-generation super high-speed trains were designed to replace.

August has seen the new trains running on an hourly basis between Frankfurt and Cologne. Each train accommodates nearly 450.

The first runs showed that a few technical bugs still needed to be ironed out, meaning passengers were deprived of digital read-outs of the train's speed.

But the inaugural train driver Christian Knauth was quick to point via loudspeakers that the train was up to speed after leaving Frankfurt at 5.38am en route to a 7.06am arrival in Cologne.

In fact on its first run ECI Number 1040 was six minutes ahead of schedule when it whooshed into Limburg station at 6am to the cheers of some 2,500 early-risers who had braved a dawn thunderstorm to be on hand to welcome the new train.

People in Limburg were out in force partly due to curiosity but partly to convince German Rail officials that the new trains should continue to stop there.

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