ICE International and Nightjet: glancing back and looking ahead

Assessing 2023 and the plans for 2024

NS International, together with Deutsche Bahn, took steps last year to improve ICE's schedule during the summer. How did that work out? And what are the plans for the upcoming year?

We ask Erik Leddy who is Director ICE International & Nightjet.

Column 3
Column 4

Good news

'We're getting new ICE trains next year!' Before we start looking back on last summer, Erik starts with the good news: the new ICE 3 trains that will start running in mid-2024. Brand new. Straight from the Siemens factory. But first, let's look back at the past summer.

Assessing 2023

'Things went better last summer than the year before,' Erik says. 'There were fewer overcrowded trains. In 2022, we unfortunately sometimes had to skip stations during the peak period because the train was too full. That hardly ever occurred this summer. Mandatory reservations for crowded trains helped in this regard.'
This past summer, NS International also deployed extra staff on the platforms. Erik explains: 'They directed passengers to the ticket offices if they had no seat reservation and helped them find their carriage. Our customers appreciated that.'

In last year´s interview, Erik had explained that there was an 'leftover' train by cutting the route to Basel into two parts. All passengers to Basel had to change trains in Frankfurt. The resulting 'free' train carriage could be used as a reserve train. In addition, there would be another reserve train in Amsterdam. In reality, this did not work very well, says Erik. 'There were too many breakdowns on the route to Frankfurt, which meant people missed their connecting train to Basel. That was very inconvenient. We were also able to use the extra train less often than we expected beforehand. But all in all, we had a better summer with more satisfied passengers and fewer train cancellations.'

Looking ahead to 2024

New ICE 3 trains

Last time, you spoke of new ICE trains. When will they arrive? 'The first trains are currently scheduled to arrive in early summer 2024. Deutsche Bahn has ordered just over 100 of them and they are all suitable to operate in the Netherlands and Belgium as well. You can already see them on the route from Düsseldorf to Munich. We are doing test runs and training drivers. Our train managers will start their training next year.'

New trains are not authorised to operate within the Netherlands until they are approved by ProRail. The situation in the Netherlands is different to that in Germany, partly because of the different catenary voltage. This procedure takes a lot of time. 'Once everything has received an stamp of approval from ProRail, we can replace all trains in six weeks.’ So, you can call this the big promise of 2024? 'Yes indeed, the biggest advantage of these new trains is the technology. They rolled directly out of the Siemens factory, are less prone to breakdowns and have a totally new climate control system, among other things.'
So, it can get hot in the summer again? ‘Yes,' laughs Erik, ‘bring on the hot summers!'

Column 3
Column 4

Engineering works 2024

Will there be any extra engineering works on the German track the upcoming year? 'Yes, unfortunately there are new works in the south of Germany in the second half of the year. People going to Basel will then all have to change trains in Frankfurt. The work at Emmerich will continue for the time being, no end date is known for this. Trains will then cross the border at Venlo.
There are also extensive works at Cologne in 2024. Trains will then run via Cologne Messe/Deutz instead of Cologne Hauptbahnhof.

Night train news

On time more frequently

Erik has good news about the night train to Vienna and Innsbruck. Two measures that will make the overnight train less likely to be delayed. 'As of 10 December 2023, the locomotive no longer needs to be changed in Cologne. That could reduce delays. And we will run a different route from Cologne. No longer along the Rhine but via Siegen. That is further east. And that route has the advantage of being less busy.'
Erik also talks about the modification of some of the seated carriages. They will be given a modern design and converted into a reclining carriage for four. With four fixed beds, high enough that you will not bump your head during the day. Those carriages will probably start running at the beginning of the summer.

Night train to Basel

And the Nightjet to Basel? Is that going to run differently too? 'No,' replies Erik. 'The night train to Basel will still run past the Rhine. That train has an 'ordinary intercity' function with seated coaches. The layout of that train will change, though. Now the seating carriages are in the middle and at both ends you have the couchette and sleeping carriages. It could be made more convenient by having the seating carriages at one end and the couchette and sleeping carriages at the other'.
Why is that more convenient? 'You get less wandering through the train this way, it becomes a lot calmer. And if the sleeping compartments run out of red wine, it's easy for the staff to go next door. They no longer have to walk all the way through the train through the seated carriages.'

Entire new night trains by 2025

Erik says the ÖBB's new Nightjet trains are not coming for now. The first ones to roll off the line will run between Vienna/Innsbruck and Hamburg. It will probably be early 2026 before we see them in the Netherlands. So, we will have to be patient for a while longer.

Column 3
Column 4

ICE and Nightjet schedules in 2024

And finally: are there changes to the schedule? 'Next year, nothing will change in ICE’s schedule. There will be some changes in departure times of the Nightjet to Vienna and Innsbruck. That will be 19.00 hrs from Amsterdam. At all times, even when there are engineering works. Fortunately, unexpectedly leaving half an hour earlier will no longer have to happen.'

Travel with ICE International summer 2023

During the peak summer period, international travelers on the ICE must also have a seat reservation.

Measures ICE International summer 2023

This year, in cooperation with Deutsche Bahn, we are taking measures to improve the ICE schedule.