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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Germany’s new long-distance rail timetable

Starting December 13th, German national railway Deutsche Bahn will kick off several new routes, as part of a larger improvement plan. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Germany's new long-distance rail timetable
Archive photo shows a high speed train in Hamburg.

From Sunday onwards, rail customers between Berlin and Hamburg will experience the biggest milestone of Germany's new nationwide train table.

During the day, ICE, Intercity and Eurocity trains will now run there every half hour on average between 6am and 10pm.

Sixty instead of 45 trains will travel daily between Germany's two largest cities.

“I am pleased about this good starting signal,” Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) said in advance about Germany’s new train time table, which goes into effect on Sunday December 13th.

READ ALSO: Trains to travel between major German cities every 30 minutes

The changes are part of a broader 'Deutschlandtakt' plan, which over the next years will see train services in Germany made more efficient, expansive and punctual, according to Deutsche Bahn.

What are the biggest changes in the new timetable?

There will be 14 new direct connections between Berlin and the former federal capital Bonn – a route on which many government officials still prefer to fly. In future, the Bahn aims to reduce the journey from nearly five to four hours.

The ICE4 now also runs between Cologne and Berlin, which means more seats than before, plus a bicycle compartment.

More and faster connections are available between Munich and Zurich (12 times per day) with trains operated by Swiss Federal Railways. An additional daily ICE journey Hamburg-Munich train should also bring better connections for passengers from Lüneburg, Uelzen, Celle and Augsburg.

Yet there's a downside as the prices are going up slightly: on average, long-distance tickets will be one percent more expensive from Sunday, and local tickets 1.5 per cent more expensive.

Super-Sparpreise (Super Savings) and Sparpreise, however, will remain unchanged, as will the prices for Bahncards 25 and 50, which respectively give customers a 25 and 50 discount.

However, customers are still saving money overall: travelling by train became ten percent cheaper in 2020, with the reduction in value-added tax (VAT) at the beginning of the year.

Photo: DPA

Part of a larger plan

So what is the “Deutschlandtakt” all about? The new timetable model is supposed to make travelling by train easier and faster. Plans have been fine-tuned for years. 

Here's the idea: trains arrive at important transfer stations at roughly the same time and depart again shortly afterwards. Long transfer times of half an hour and more should then no longer exist.

The role model for the plan is Switzerland, where a fixed-interval timetable has been in place for decades. By 2030, Deutsche Bahn aims to extend the half-hourly service to other large cities, dreaming of a “metropolis-connecting S-Bahn”.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. Although there were only a few passengers, every fifth long-distance train was late in November, according to Deutsche Bahn data.

The fact that four long-distance trains now run between Hamburg and Berlin in two hours instead of the previous three is only one building block for the Deutschlandtakt.

Future changes

Deutsche Bahn, however, says it will be a few years before the next plans are implemented.

When the new Wendlingen-Ulm line and the new Stuttgart station are in operation, Stuttgart and Munich as well as Stuttgart and Frankfurt will be connected every half hour from the end of 2025, as will Frankfurt-Cologne and FrankfurtHamburg.

There is no date yet for Berlin-Cologne, for which the section between Hanover and Bielefeld must first be upgraded.

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TRAVEL

Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts

Catch the very tail-end of the wine season and autumn foliage in one of the lesser-explored corners of the Austrian capital: Mauer.

Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts
Beautiful views and cosy taverns await you on the edge of Vienna. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Wine-hiking is an autumn must-do in Austria, and although the official Wine Hiking Day (Weinwandertag) that usually draws crowds has been cancelled two years in a row during the pandemic, it’s possible to follow the routes through beautiful scenery and wine taverns on your own.

Mauer in the southwest of Vienna is one of the routes that is mostly frequented by locals.


The footpath takes you through scenic vineyards. Photo: Catherine Edwards

You can reach this part of the 23rd district using Vienna’s public transport, and you have a few options. From the Hietzing station on the U4 line, you can take the tramline 60 or bus 56A. The former will take you either to Mauer’s central square or you can get off earlier at Franz-Asenbauer-Gasse to start the hike. If it’s too early in the day for wine just yet, you could start your day at the small and charming Designo cafe (Geßlgasse 6).

Otherwise, the residential area itself doesn’t have much to see, but keep an eye out as you wander between the taverns later — there are some beautiful buildings.

To start the hike, head west along Franz-Asenbauer Gasse, which will take you up into the vineyards, growing some red wine and Vienna’s specialty Gemischter Satz or ‘field blend’, which as the name suggests is a mixture of different types of grapes.

Photo: Catherine Edwards

The paved road takes a left turn, but the hiking route follows a smaller path further upwards. Here you’ll have magnificent views over the whole of Vienna.

If you stick to the official hiking route (see a map from Weinwandern here) you can keep the whole route under 5 kilometres. But more adventurous types don’t need to feel limited.

You can also follow the Stadtwanderweg 6 route (see a map here) either in full, which will add on a hefty 13 kilometres, or just in part, and venture further into the Mauerwald. If you do this, one spot to aim for is the Schießstätte, a former hunting lodge offering hearty Austrian meals.

EXPLORE AUSTRIA

In any case, you should definitely take a small detour to see the Wotrubakirche, an example of brutalist architecture from the mid-1970s built on a site that was used as a barracks during the Second World War.

Not far from the church is the Pappelteich, a small pond that is not only an important habitat for local flora and fauna, but a popular picnic spot for hikers. Its only water supply is from the rain, and due to climate change the pond has almost dried out in recent years, prompting the city to take action to boost its water supply by adding a permanent pipe.


The church is made up of over 150 concrete blocks. Photo: Catherine Edwards

What you really come to Mauer for, though, are the Heuriger or Viennese wine taverns. 

The most well-known is Edlmoser (Maurer Lange Gasse 123) which has previously been named as the best in Vienna. Note that it’s not open all year so check the website, but in 2021 it should be open between November 5th and 21st, and is also serving the goose that is a popular feature on Viennese menus this time of year.

Tip for translating Heuriger opening times: look for the word ausg’steckt, which is used by those taverns which aren’t open year round. They will also often show that they’re open by attaching a bunch of green twigs to the sign or front door.


Buschenschank Grausenburger. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Also worth visiting are cosy Buschenschank Grausenburger (Maurer Lange Gasse 101a), Heuriger Wiltschko (Wittgensteinstrasse 143 — located near the start of the hiking route, this is a good place to begin your tour) and Heuriger Fuchs-Steinklammer (Jesuitensteig 28).

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