High-Speed Rail News Roundup #34: December 17, 2012

ICE Train riding through the German countryside.

This week we bring you exciting rail news from three of the big high-speed rail countries in western Europe: France, Italy, and Germany. In a continuing effort to ensure that the high-speed rail experience is as efficient and enjoyable as possible, France tackles the ever-evolving question of how to improve the train riding experience for its passengers. The answer they’ve come up with? Improve the passengers themselves. Meanwhile, Italy leaves one era of train riding behind in order to embrace the next: this month they will retire the last three ES trains (Eurostar Italia), and replace them with the newer Frecciabianca models. Germany, meanwhile, is looking far into the future not only of transportation, but also the environment in which we travel — they are aiming to increase renewable energy usage significantly by April 2013. Whether these changes are focusing on the past, present, or future of train riding, one thing is for certain: the evolution of train travel isn’t showing any signs of slowing down just yet.

Watch Out: The Politeness Police Are Coming

In a previous news roundup, we mentioned that France was giving some of its RER trains a makeover — they were being decorated to look like the Palace of Versailles. Turns out that this was just an early step in a much larger mission to change the way that travelers behave onboard the train. Train officials are hoping that the more aesthetically pleasing train interiors will discourage vandalism, while “conflict  specialists” will be hired to issue fines and warnings for other rude behaviors (putting feet up on empty seats, littering, and smoking, to name a few).  So, remember to mind your manners when onboard French trains.

In Italy, It’s Out with the Old

In Italy, meanwhile, an era has come to an end. The last three operating Eurostar Italia trains will be retired, and the newer, faster Frecciabianca trains will run in their place. This coincides with the recent introduction of the new high speed Italo trains, which are top of the line in terms of comfort, style, and sustainability. Italy’s rail system has been all over the news this past year and rightfully so; it’s currently one of the sole places in Europe where the only thing faster than the high speed trains is the rate at which a newer, even faster train is introduced.

Germany Gets Greener

Starting in early April 2013, travelers holding a Bahncard or temporary “Zeitkarten” will be eligible for travel on DB’s ICE, Intercity, and Eurocity trains — trains that all operate on 100% renewable electricity — for no extra cost. Corporate customers will also be offered CO2-free business class travel, which will triple DB’s share of renewable energy in long-distance transportation services. Rail travel is already the leader in green transportation options, but as Germany is trying to show us, improvements can always be made. This new update aims to benefit not only the environment but also loyal DB travelers, and so everyone, it seems, will leave a winner.

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