Train travel is very popular in Europe and trains connect almost all the major European cities. Of all the European countries, Germany probably has the best railway system and there are almost no places in Germany and surrounding countries where German trains do not go.
It is a member of the International Union of the Railways or UIC and bears the code 80 as the UIC country code. A journey on train in Germany is not only comfortable, but it is economical also.
The German railway system is almost fully controlled by DB or Deutsche Bahn, meaning German Rail. There are also some private operators operating on regional lines, but they are few. DB operates over 29,000 trains daily carrying more than 4.5 million people over 35,000 km of tracks covering over 5500 stations.
Interestingly, DB probably operates the largest variant of trains in the world including some of the fastest passenger trains of the world. Each of these classes of trains are classified by their abbreviations like ICE, EC, IRE, etc. The classes are generally made on the basis of speed of the class and the distance and destinations they cover.
ICE is of course one of the coolest trains to run the European lines. ICE stands for InercityExpress, the flagship of the German Rail, which runs on a average speed of up to 320 kmph. It is the most well known train of the system and operates between various German and European cities.
ICE travels to Basel, Zurich, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Copenhagen and of late a service has been opened to Paris and this line is served jointly by the ICE and the French TGV trains. There are several variations of the ICE that were introduced from time to time.
The ICE 1, ICE 2, ICE T, ICE 3 and ICE TD. The ICE T uses the latest tilting technology to enable it to run on the regular railway tracks while the ICE Sprint, introduced for services between German cities, cuts the running time by almost an hour. There are currently 259 sets of these trains operating under DB.
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Living up to their flagship status, the ICE trains are well known for their comfort and state-of-the-art technology. All the cars are fully air-conditioned with every adjustable seat having a headphone jack with which the passengers can listen to both on-board music and voice programs and broadcasts from various radio stations.
All the first class seats (and also second class seats in some trains) are fitted with video displays showing movies and other programs. The improved radio reception facilities on board allow uninterrupted mobile phone connection on the trains. The passengers have the option of choosing their seats when making reservations. Apart from choosing the class they can choose from window and aisle seats, face-to-face or row seating and seats with fixed tables.
IC or InterCity is the second highest class of trains in Germany after the ICE trains and run at an average speed of 200kmph. The IC trains are hauled by locomotives and connect the major German cities while those connecting the neighboring European cities are classified as EuroCity or EC. EC trains depart almost every hour depending on the destinations.
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The amenities offered on board the trains are top class and so is the comfort level provided by the trains. The trains have Bordresaurants or Bordbistros or both. All the InterCity trains have been upgraded to provide electric outlets to all the seats with tables and also wherever possible. However, since the EuroCity trains comprise carriages from the railways of the neighboring countries, the amenities vary from route to route.
3. NZ, CNL, EN, ICN
Nachtzug or NZ; CityNightLine or CNL; EuroNight or EN and InterCityNight or ICN are all overnight trains operating between various German and European cities. Normally the routes taking 6 hours or more to cover are brought under the night services so that unnecessary time is not lost by the passengers.
These trains consist of compartment of open saloon coaches. There are reclining seats, sleeping cars, couchette cars and dining cars. Luggage is taken care of in luggage compartments, combined couchette or in special luggage and bicycle compartments.
The cars are all air-conditioned and the sleeping cars come in two varieties, the double deck compartments and the Comfortline cars where each compartment has 2 to 3 berths and the WC and the showers are in the aisles.
The Deluxe cars have private WC and showers apart from the washbasin which is a common feature in all the compartments. The beds are all normal sized beds. The couchette cars have 4 or 6 berths and their categories vary according to the amenities offered.
4. IRE, RE, RB
All these categories of trains fall in the local train category and the passengers can use them with local tickets. IRE stands for InterRegioExpress or for the service that connects the large regional cities. It once operated as InteRegio and connected many cities in Europe.
But they ceased to exist as the InterCity trains were introduced and IRE started serving the regional cities within the country. The RE stands for Regional Express which connects the medium sized towns and RB stands for RegionalBahn which connects the smallest of the towns and form the main local train network.
5. SE, S
SE or the Stadt Express is the class of trains that connect the important large and medium German cities to their immediate suburbs and satellite towns. Trains falling under the S-Bahn (Schnellbahn) or S category are local commuter trains operating in and around major cities. These form the rapid transit system of the cities.
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These trains run at fixed intervals of 5 to 10 minutes within the city and 20 minutes beyond the city limits. Most of the times the S-Bahn within the city run on dedicated tracks. Most of the services run from 5 am till midnight or for 24 hours.
Recently, double-decker trains have been introduced in the high-volume routes on the RE lines. Most of the trains have a car painted with a large bicycle painted on it. This car allows have special storing areas for bicycles and even skis on the mountain sections. There are also special areas in the trains for accommodating wheel chairs.