"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 as a single did not chart in the UK although reached number one in France.
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.
The song was also recorded and released in a German language version under the title Trans Europa Express both as a single in edited form and on the German language version of the album of the same name. The lyrics are a literal translation of the English language version although it is not known which came first.
A new version of Trans Europe Express was included on the 1991 album The Mix. This version is considerably shorter than the original and omits the verse about David Bowie and Iggy Pop. It also segues directly into the tracks Abzug and Metal on Metal, although the fusion with the former makes Trans Europe Express closer to the original in duration. A German language version of the track was also included on the German release of The Mix.
The track has often featured in Kraftwerk's live sets and a live version of the Trans Europe Express / Abzug / Metal on Metal suite recorded at Riga Olimpiska Hall in 2004 is included on the group's live album Minimum-Maximum.