Punctuality crisis for ICE trains drives disruptions
Recent reports have highlighted growing concerns over the punctuality of the ICE (Intercity
Express) train services operating between Germany and the Netherlands. This summer has seen unprecedented dropouts and extended delays, causing troubles for thousands of travellers.
Some passengers have faced extended delays of as much as seven hours, with five trains dropping out of service on Saturday alone due to “technical incidents of various kinds”, according to operator NS International. As well as sparking widespread criticism from frustrated passengers such incidents have also led to disagreement over the definition of train ‘failures’. For many of these incidents, the underlying technical cause remains unclear, whether hardware or software and this has led to discrepancies in the data.
Online platform Treinpositions.nl claimed that 19 ICE trains failed since the beginning of August, however, NS International spokesperson, Anita Middelkoop, countered this with a figure of 11, hinting that the definition of a “failed train” could vary. As a measure to address last summer’s overcrowding issues, both NS and Deutsche Bahn implemented a reservation requirement for the ICE connection.
The disruptions are also extending to Switzerland where Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is letting less and less ICE Deutsche Bahn into the country as delays would have a negative impact on the punctuality of trains within Switzerland. According to the SBB, there were eleven trains that went from Germany to Switzerland, with an additional train from Germany via Switzerland to Italy. According to the SBB website, there are now five per day, including the train to Italy. The situation is also worsened due to bridge damage near Frankfurt caused by a truck that is causing trains to be diverted. At the beginning of August, Deutsche Bahn announced that the repair in Frankfurt would probably take two months.
This punctuality crisis isn’t limited to ICE, with other train services, such as the European Sleeper route between Brussels and Berlin, also reporting technical glitches, albeit without causing significant delays.