Every year we plan a few big trips together, Timothy and I. When we heard ÖBB’s proposal to launch Nightjet service to Brussels in December 2019 we jumped on the occasion and included a ride back home from Austria to Belgium on the Nightjet after our autumn Berlin, Czechia and Slovakia trip. However as we all know in early 2020 an annoying new coronavirus COVID-19, appeared and shook up travel all over the world. We changed our plans to an itinerary in ‘safe’ Germany including stops in Leipzig, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Munich, Lindau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen from where we would take a short train ride to Innsbruck to board our Nightjet back home.
We left our homebase of Antwerp on an InterCity service to Brussels where we boarded one of the ICE International trains from Brussels to Frankfurt. This time it was operated by one of the NS (dutch railways) owned sets. We decided to treat ourselves on a trip in First Class as it would be a long trip from Brussels via Frankfurt to Leipzig. The first train was an ICE 3M, I travelled a lot on this train before but it was my first time in First Class. The seats where comfortable and spacious and the train was rather calm and quiet up until Cologne. Just like on any other ICE 3 journeys I had before this was a nice and smooth ride.
Our connection from Frankfurt to Leipzig would be on-board one of the new controversial ICE 4 sets. I travelled the route between Frankfurt and Leipzig before on an ICE 1 unit on my way to Dresden with Ivan a few years ago, and it is a fairly boring route. First you travel along classic railway lines until Erfurt, meandering through the hills of central Germany. The top speed is only achieved on the VDE 8 high-speed line between Erfurt and Leipzig.
The biggest novelty of the trip was thus the ICE 4 trainset itself. While it looked modern, it also had a less quality look and feel to it compared to some of the other ICE trains. Everything looked and felt cheaper. The ride quality was also worse than on other ICE’s, the suspension being hard and the train is shaking and rattling the whole way. The seats themselves were also too hard for my liking, and didn’t provide is with first class comfort. There are also no more compartments in the train and everything is open seating, 1-2 in first class and 2-2 in second class.
A nice point where the information screen above the corridor, depicting information about the train route and connections. Remarkably the information was also given in French next to German and English.
In my opinion the ICE 4 however is not an improvement over older generations of ICE trains. It is less comfortable and less well built in my opinion. Also the decision of buying new train only capable of 250 kph while building new lines for 300 kph was questionable. Apparently DB realised this too as they announced they would acquire a new generation of 300 kph capable high-speed trains earlier this year, to supersede the ICE 4 as the newest top of the line ICE. Let’s just hope they will prove to be a better product!
Have you travelled on an ICE 4 trainset? And what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!