InterCity Express turns 15
By Dave Beale
NURNBURG – With the 2006 World Cup Football championship just a memory, Germany quietly celebrated 15 years of operation of its high-speed trains – known better as ICE.
In a feature story on the front page of the business and commerce section of the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on the August 14, Deutsche Bahn, or German Railways, board member Karl-Friedrich Rausch says that the company's ICE trains, which have been in service since their June 1991 debut on the new Hannover-Würzburg high speed corridor, are the key element of the rail company's future. Germany entered the high-speed train business well over a decade after neighboring France started operating its TGV trains and more than two decades after Japan and the USA respectively started operating Shinkansen (bullet train) and Metroliner trains.
The initial 60 trainsets of the ICE-1 series were joined over the years by the similar but half-length ICE-2 model, and the high-tech but somewhat problematic ICE-3 EMU train sets and ICE-3 based derivatives.
Today, 236 ICE train sets in various versions rack up thousands of miles of operation everyday within Germany and into neighboring countries such as Austria, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. ICE ridership averages 180,000 persons daily, and more than 100 cities are served by the red-on-white colored trains.
After a new high-speed corridor between Munich and Nürnburg opened, travel times between those two cities dropped by 40 minutes to just one hour. With the December 2006 system schedule change, ICE trains will depart every 30 minutes between the two southern German cities. Other newly built or upgraded ICE corridors have dramatically reduced travel times: Frankfurt - Köln (Cologne) in 72 minutes, Berlin-Hamburg in 90 minutes (vs. 3 hours a few years ago), and Hannover-Munich in four hours, which is 30 minutes shorter than last year.
High speed has, however, a price. The new 106 mile Munich-Nürnberg corridor cost €3.6 billion (US $4.5 billion) to complete, including the all new 89 km Ingolstadt-Nürnburg section built along an existing freeway alignment, but with numerous bridges and tunnels in order to provide a relatively straight and low gradient rail line which now supports 186 mph ICE train operations. The federal and state governments supported approximately 80 percent of the cost.
Cuba buys Iranian freight cars
TEHRAN – Iran and Cuba have finalized a deal on the sale of 80 freight cars to Cuba, valued at €4,353,280, Iran’s Mehr News Agency (MNS) reported Saturday.
According to the agreement, Iran will deliver the 80 covered hoppers.
Forty of the used freight cars are scheduled to be shipped from Bandar Abbas port in Southern Iran to Havana in Cuba within the next five months and the rest would be delivered in the next 10 months.
The freight cars were formerly used by Iran’s rail network to carry cement in bulk.
Based on another agreement, Iran’s Pars Wagon Co. of Arak has undertaken to deliver 500 freight cars to Cuba, MNS reported.