Analysis: It’s 10 years since Deutsche Bahn announced plans for London. What happened?

20 Oct 2020 by Alex McWhirter
Deutsche Bahn ICE train - iStock

Ten years ago European rail travel was on a roll.

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn (DB) had brought one of its prestigious ICEs to London St Pancras.

DB was promising a new railway age. One in which someone boarding a train in London could disembark deep inside mainland Europe.

DB revealed plans to operate HS (high-speed) trains from London to Brussels and beyond to Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt.

Editor Tom Otley attended the event and describes it here:

Deutsche Bahn trains at St Pancras

There are several videos showing the swish ICE in London one of which is from AFP Deutschland.

It was hoped services would start in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

Sadly it wasn’t to be.

DB had reckoned without dealing with the Channel Tunnel authorities who, at that time, would allow only Eurostar’s Alstom trains to transit the Tunnel under their own power.

As I have noted many times previously only specific trains are permitted to transit the Tunnel. At that time and even today only Eurostar possesses the relevant passenger trainsets.

Other factors are highlighted by ALLRAIL (an alliance of open access rail firms in mainland Europe) – see this Twitter link.

I also suspect politics in Germany may have influenced matters.

National rail operators are heavily subsidised.

Their prime duty is to cater for the nation’s citizens (most of whom are taxpayers) rather than get involved with international forays.*

Faced with these issues DB appeared to have lost interest by 2014.

Its plans were “postponed.”

Deutsche Bahn postpones London rail service

A few weeks ago we reported on Germany’s plans to revive a network of TEE (Trans-Europ-Express) trains.   London however is omitted.

Trans-Europ-Express to be revived?

As rail expert Keith Barrow notes, had DB persisted with its London plans, our capital would surely have formed part of the revived TEE network.

  • Note: Eurostar is different to national rail firms in that it’s purely an international operator.

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