Rail transport in Germany

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ICE IGB3.jpg
National railway Deutsche Bahn
Ridership 2.02 billion (2013, Deutsche Bahn only)[1]
Passenger km 82,4 billion (2012, Deutsche Bahn only)[2]
Freight 105.9 billion tkm (2012, Deutsche Bahn only)[2]
System length
Total 41,315 kilometres (25,672 mi) [3]
Electrified 19,857 kilometres (12,339 mi)
Track gauge
Main 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
15 kV 16 2/3 Hz Main network
Map of the railway network in Germany;
  lines with InterCityExpress traffic
  lines with InterCity/EuroCity traffic
  lines with other passenger traffic

As of 2005, Germany had a railway network of 41,315 km of which 34,211 km belonged to the national railway and 19,857 km were electrified. The total track length was 76,473 km. Germany is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC). The UIC Country Code for Germany is 80.


Deutsche Bahn and ca. 1500 private railway companies operate a total of 23,496 powered rail vehicles:[4]

  Passenger transport Goods Sum
  Long-distance Short-distance    
Multiple units 538 15,224 0 15,762
Locomotives 2,650 1,950 3,134 7,734
Sum 3,188 17,174 3,134 23,496

In 2006, railways in Germany carried ca. 119,968,000 passengers on long-distance trains (at an average distance of 288 km), and 2,091,828,000 passengers on short-distance trains (21 km on average). In the same year they carried 346,118,000 tonnes of goods at an average distance of 309 km.[5]

Volume-Percentage of private railway companies in Germany

Deutsche Bahn (state-owned private company) is the main provider of railway service. In recent years a number of competitors have started business. They mostly offer state-subsidized regional services, but some, like Veolia Verkehr offer long-distance services as well.

InterRegio services, introduced in 1988 to replace the former Schnellzug and Intercity, were abolished in 2003. Deutsche Bahn is gradually increasing the percentage of InterCityExpress services, and downgrading the remaining InterCity services to the role formerly played by InterRegio.

  • Thalys – high-speed services to Belgium and France, using modified French TGV trains
  • Cisalpino – to Italy, service discontinued mid-December 2006
  • Regional rail and local rail traffic is organised and subsidised (as the fares usually do not cover the running costs) by the federal states. Usual procedure under EU legislation is to award the contract to the lowest bid by means of a tender procedure. The respective states are free to announce short- or long-term contracts as well as to stipulate further conditions e.g. on rolling stock. In recent years, many bids were won by private rail companies like NordWestBahn or Arriva, although some states have awarded long-term contracts to local DB Regio subsidiaries. The train types for regional and local traffic are:
    • Regional-Express and Interregio-Express – medium-distance semi-fast trains for regional services
    • Regionalbahn – basic local service, usually calling at all stations
    • S-Bahn – suburban rail services mostly provided by Deutsche Bahn
    • U-Bahn – underground train services provided by the various cities' transport bodies (not Deutsche Bahn)
    • Tram/light rail services; in a few major cities these run underground in the city centre (often called "Stadtbahn", especially if they have been upgraded to railway standards)

Track gauges[edit]

Gauge Country/region Companies Notes
name metric (mm) imperial
Irish gauge 1,600 5 ft 3 in Germany Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway 1840–1855[6]
Russian gauge 1,520 4 ft 11 56 in Germany Only at Sassnitz/Mukran ferry terminal for freight train ferries to Klaipėda and Baltijsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.
Standard gauge 1,435 4 ft 8 12 in Germany Deutsche Bahn This is the standard or international gauge
Metre gauge 1,000 3 ft 3 38 in Germany Harz Narrow Gauge Railways, trams
1,800 5 ft 10 78 in Oberweißbacher Bergbahn (funicular section only)[6]
1,458 4 ft 9 25 in Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe AG
1,450 4 ft 9 15 in Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe AG
900 2 ft 11 716 in Mecklenburgische Bäderbahn Molli
750 2 ft 5 12 in Lößnitzgrundbahn; Weißeritztalbahn; Döllnitzbahn GmbH; Zittauer Schmalspurbahn

Platform height[edit]

Application of the EU standard platform heights for new constructions; Green = 550 mm, Purple = 760 mm, Yellow = both, dark gray = New builds in other heights than the EU standards

The European Union Commission issued a TSI (Technical Specifications for Interoperability) on May 30, 2002, (2002/735/EC) that sets out standard platform heights for passenger steps on high-speed rail. These standard heights are 550 mm and 760 mm.[7][note 1]

In Germany new builds are 550 mm and 760 mm. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has new builds with 550 mm.[9] Hesse, NRW, Berlin had new builds with 760 mm.[9]

Rail links to adjacent countries[edit]

All these links are to countries of the same gauge, although electrification and other systems (such as signalling) may differ.

International passenger trains[edit]

(only major connections listed)

It is also possible to travel to London, United Kingdom by changing onto the Eurostar at Brussels

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In reference to EU documentation on interoperability of trans-national high speed rail (see EU Directive 96/48/EC) platform height is measured from the top of the running surface of the rail.[8]


  1. ^ http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/financial/rising-costs-and-bad-weather-hit-db-revenues.html?channel=542
  2. ^ a b deutschebahn.de: Fahrgastrekord in den Zügen der Deutschen Bahn Deutsche Bahn AG
  3. ^ The World Factbook: Country Comparison :: Railways
  4. ^ Federal Statistical Office of Germany, Fachserie 8, Reihe 2.1: Verkehr, Eisenbahnverkehr/Betriebsdaten des Schienenverkehrs 2006
  5. ^ Federal Statistical Office of Germany, Fachserie 8, Reihe 2: Verkehr, Eisenbahnverkehr 2006
  6. ^ a b Rieger, Bernhard (2006-04-23). "Breitspurbahn". Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  7. ^ 2002/735/EC , sections 7.3.4 and 4.2.5
  8. ^ "Commission Recommendation of 21 March 2001 on the basic parameters of the trans-European high-speed rail system referred to in Article 5(3)(b) of Directive 96/48/EC". eur-lex.europa.eu. European Union. 21 March 2001. section 6.1. Platform height is measured between the track running surface and the platform surface along the perpendicular 
  9. ^ a b http://www.pro-bahn.de/pbz/articles/104_barriere.pdf

External links[edit]