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What to know about the planned new cross-border train services between Austria and Germany

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
What to know about the planned new cross-border train services between Austria and Germany
A nightjet train pictured in Hamburg in November 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Austria and Germany's train operators are increasing the number of connections between the two countries, and want to focus more on night trains. We look at how and why they are doing it.


What's happening?

Due to an uptick in demand, Germany's Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) are teaming up to provide train passengers with more long-distance rail services. 

As The Local reported, cross-border travel passenger numbers between the two German-speaking countries have grown by 40 percent in the last five years.

And this year the companies expect around seven million passengers to use the services. 

One of their goals is to focus on travel after dark - and double passenger numbers on cross-border European night trains by 2030.

Are there any other reasons for this?

Yes, the two companies say that more people are embracing train travel due to climate change, and they want to cater more to this outlook. 

Stefanie Berk, member of the management board for marketing and sales for DB Fernverkehr (long distance travel), said: "The trend towards rail is continuing. More and more people in Germany and Austria are opting for the climate-friendly train to travel to their neighbouring countries.

"We want to further boost growth with new trains, more comfort and more connections. This can only be achieved by a joint effort of the railway companies involved. The expansion of the international timetable in close cooperation with ÖBB is our answer to the growing demand."

An international Nightjet train. Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Dr. Sabine Stock, ÖBB Board Member for Passenger Transport: "By 2030, we want to double the number of passengers on Nightjet services to three million. 

READ ALSO: The 10 best destinations by direct night train from Austria


"Deutsche Bahn plays an important role here, as many Nightjet lines start and end in Germany. The new connections from Berlin to Paris and Brussels and the deployment of the 'new generation Nightjet' in Germany are strong signs that DB and ÖBB believe in the night train product and will provide more services."

READ ALSO: The new international train routes you can take from Germany this year

What services can we expect?

In December 2023 when the timetable changes, there will be another ICE connection between Berlin and Vienna via Nuremberg.

The extension of the route to Hamburg will also give the Elbe city another daily connection to the Austrian capital.

From December, DB and ÖBB will also be offering the ICE journey from Berlin via Frankfurt/Main and Stuttgart to Innsbruck and back every day instead of only at weekends.

Meanwhile, long-distance trains will run hourly between Munich and Salzburg from around 6 am to 9 pm. From Innsbruck to Munich there will be a two-hourly service between 6.40 am and 9.40 pm daily.


What else is changing?

ÖBB and DB said they are also investing more funding in new trains.

On the Frankfurt/Main-Munich-Salzburg-Klagenfurt route, ICE 4 trains will be used from the timetable change in December onwards, with the aim of ensuring "more comfort and reliability in long-distance travel".

Higher quality facilities and more seats will also be provided with the new-generation Railjets, which will run on the route between Munich and Italy from April 2024. 

How are night train services changing?

The Austrian and German rail operators want a special focus on European night travel services. From December this year, the two companies will offer Nightjet connections from Berlin and Vienna to Paris and Brussels.

Frankfurt airport deutsche bahn

A Deutsche Bahn ICE train leaves the long-distance train station at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

These connections will initially run three times a week, then daily from autumn 2024. For Berlin, this will double the number of Nightjet connections

From the turn of the year 2023/24, the new ÖBB Nightjet trains will be rolled out for the first time. They will first be used on the Hamburg-Vienna and Hamburg-Innsbruck connections.

These newly developed Nightjets, which can travel at speeds of up to 230 km/h, will offer a higher level of comfort, including individual cabins in the couchette and more accessible boarding for people with reduced mobility.

Further connections in Austria, Germany and Italy will follow in the course of 2024.

READ ALSO: How night trains are making a bumpy comeback in Austria

So is cross-border travel getting easier?

Well, new services are always welcome. 

But mobility researchers regularly complain that the potential of international rail transport is far from reaching its potential.

One reason is that travelling by rail across borders in Europe is still complicated. For instance, there is no platform jointly operated by the European railway companies through where all connections can be booked. So it can be tricky to see the night train offers that exist. 

Most bookings have to be made via the systems of the national train companies. Travellers have to click their way through the menus.

Often it is not even possible to see at first glance what a cross-border ticket costs.


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