"Trans-Europe Express" was released as a single in 1977, and charted in the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number 67.Trans-Europe Express began charting in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. The album entered the charts on February 6, 1982, staying in the charts for seven weeks and peaking at number 49.
Allmusic described the musical elements of the suite as having a haunting theme with "deadpan chanting of the title phrase" which is "slowly layered over that rhythmic base in much the same way that the earlier "Autobahn" was constructed". The song's lyrics reference the album Station to Station and meeting with musicians Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Hütter and Schneider had previously met up with Bowie in Germany and were flattered with the attention they received from him. Ralf Hütter was interested in Bowie's work as he had been working with Iggy Pop, who was the former lead singer of the Stooges; one of Hütter's favorite groups.