UK rail passengers are used to what’s termed “open access” operators. Firms like Hull Trains and Grand Central compete with incumbent firm East Coast out of London. The former offer lower fares and score highly in customer service surveys.
Now comes news that the open access concept has spread to Germany. Yesterday saw the launch of new train firm called Hamburg-Cologne Express (HKX).
As its name suggests, HKX operates daily services linking these two major cities in competition with Deutsche Bahn (DB), otherwise known as German Rail.
At present there is a single daily service between Monday and Wednesday rising to up to three trains a day over the busier Thursday to Sunday period.
One-way fares range between €20 and €60 for a choice of either Basic or Premium class seating. Passengers can book online or by telephone.
Timings for the single daily service call for a departure from Hamburg Altona at 0635 with an arrival into Cologne’s Central Station or Hauptbahnhof at 1057. The return service leaves Cologne Hauptbahnhof at 1201 to arrive back in Hamburg Altona at 1623.
On the other days there are midday and late afternoon services.
Trains are formed of ex-DB “Rheingold” stock, hauled by an electric locomotive. Rail buffs will recall that, in their day, the Rheingold coaches (which were rostered for DB’s most prestigious trains) were considered amongst the most comfortable rolling stock in mainland Europe.
HKX timings compare favourably with DB’s fastest trains. Although DB operates far more frequently over this route its fares are considerably more expensive.
En route stops for HKX include three other points in Hamburg (including the Hauptbahnhof) along with Osnabruck, Munster, Essen, Duisburg and Dusseldorf.
At present HKX cannot be viewed as a serious competitor. But readers looking for something different or who wish to save some money might be tempted to give HKX a try.
HKX is funded by US and German interests in conjunction with British rail investor Michael Schabas.
Note that HKX’s website is currently available only in German language.
For more information visit hkx.de.
Report by Alex McWhirter