Taking a bike on the train just got easier, with German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) setting a welcome precedent in Europe by integrating designated spaces for eight bicycles in all their new long-distance high-speed trains.
The ECF (European Cyclists Federation) reports that, after having been tested for 14 months, the ICE 4 entered into regular service in December 2017. It represents the new flagship of DB for long-distance routes and is part of a wider strategy to provide the most customer-friendly experience. In terms of taking your bike on the train, the ICE 4 sets new standards on high-speed services by providing space for eight assembled bicycles on every train. With so few long-distance routes around Europe offering transportation for bicycles, this front-runner model could represent a milestone to promote the integration of different sustainable modes of transport by being able to take your bike on the train, as well as being an important driver for cycling tourism.
With everything being on schedule so far, the current number of five trains in the ICE 4 fleet will rise to nine by the end of 2018. However, according to DB’s ambitious growth goals, their partner Siemens will deliver a total number of 123 ICE 4 trains by 2023, which will then constitute 40 percent of all ICE traffic. The operator’s long-term strategy envisions the ICE 4 as the backbone of European long-distance travel and wishes to attract an additional 50 Million passengers by 2030.
The ECF supports measures designed to integrate bike and rail travel and considers that appealing more to potential customers who would like to combine bike and train journeys could help to achieve increases in passenger numbers. Combining cycling and taking a bike on the train is the ideal solution for environmentally sustainable mobility and can provide a genuine alternative to the private motor vehicle in seamless door-to-door journeys, whether for recreation or everyday mobility. With the current upwards trend of cycling tourism in particular – In 2016 in Germany alone 5.2 million people went on bicycle holidays – the new ICE 4 will provide an important foundation for the expansion of sustainable modes of transport.
While the introduction of the ICE 4 generally marks a positive development, first evaluations by ECF’s German member organization ADFC showed that the bicycle racks were rather narrow and four of the eight racks are vertical, which can be challenging to use with heavier bikes, such as pedelecs. Furthermore, as the Berlin branch of ADFC has highlighted, there will be some disruption to services with bicycle carriage travelling between Berlin/Brandenburg and Bavaria for the next year while some technical issues related to the introduction of the ICE 4 are resolved. As a temporary measure DB have promised to relieve some of the pressure by re-routing cyclists via Hannover into the German Alpine region during summer months when cycling tourism is at its peak.