The new “Sprinter” trains will take a brisk 3.55 hours to join the Bavarian capital with the federal Hauptstadt, blowing over two hours off current journey times. In the process, it is set to put pressure on airlines and bus companies, which currently dominate the market on the route.
Construction on the route started in 1996 and finished last year. Twenty-two tunnels and 29 bridges have been built on a new 107-kilometre stretch of track through the Thuringian Forest in former East Germany. Trains will travel at speeds of up to 300 km/h over hills and through tree-studded valleys in the idyllic state of Thuringia.
The completion marks the most significant achievement in re-connecting former East and West Germany after reunification in 1990. Plans were first agreed upon in 1991.
At the opening ceremony on Friday, Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) boss Richard Lutz described the €10 billion project as “a historic achievement.”
“This is the biggest improvement that has ever been made to the service provided by Deutsche Bahn,” he said.
But the general public will have to wait a bit longer until they can enjoy the benefits of the route. Tickets will go on sale in October, while the first public journey will take place on December 10th.
In a sign that no risks are being taken, trains will start following the scheduled timetable in August, but without passengers.
According to Lutz though, it will be worth the wait. Three Sprinters will race from Munich to Berlin every day and vice-versa, stopping only in Erfurt and Nuremberg on their blistering journey.
Other high-speed ICE trains will beat down the route at more regular intervals, but will stop more often, making their journey times 4.25 hours long.
But it won’t just be people on the Munich-Berlin line who will benefit – the entire journey plan of Deutsche Bahn is being rearranged to fit in with the new route.
“What use is a super-speed train to me if I have to wait 30 minutes in Erfurt for a connection?” asked Lutz, before claiming that the capital of Thuringia would become “the speed central of Germany.”
Residents of east German towns such as Halle, Leipzig and Dresden are all set to benefit from quicker journey times.
But even those travelling to Hamburg and Frankfurt will see a difference, Lutz said. From December onwards, Frankfurt will be connected to Berlin with high-speed trains that depart every half hour.
Deutsche Bahn have not yet released information on pricing for the new route.
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