ICE train to Frankfurt Riding through the region at 300 km/h
Rhine-Sieg District · 20 years ago, the first ICE train ran from Frankfurt to Cologne - without stopping in Siegburg. Planning for the route was problematic. Some passengers simply got left behind.
It is more than 170 kilometers long, took seven years to build, and cost around six billion euros: 20 years ago, the ICE line between Cologne and Frankfurt was inaugurated. On July 25, 2002, the Intercity Express glided past Siegburg Central Station for the first time at 40 kilometers per hour. A previously long-discussed stop in Siegburg had ultimately failed to materialize. The reason given by Hartmut Mehdorn, then head of Deutsche Bahn, was that with the start of the ICE in Frankfurt, the destination in Cologne and the stop in Montabaur, the new train would already reach all three German states. Even the fact that the then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) is said to have lobbied for a stop in Siegburg ultimately did not change the decision.
One of the most modern high-speed train routes
Instead of the chancellor, who was busy with a swearing-in ceremony in Berlin and only appeared later in Cologne for the congratulatory ceremony, his then wife, Doris Schröder-Kopf, was eagerly on board riding at 300 km/h, as the GA correspondent at the time, Ekkehard Kohrs, exclusively reported. Other celebrities included the two state premiers Roland Koch (CDU) and Wolfgang Clement (SPD), Transport Minister Kurt Bodewig (SPD), Bonn Mayor Bärbel Dieckmann (SPD) and Deutsche Bahn CEO Hartmut Mehdorn. Correspondent Kohrs describes his impressions of the maiden voyage on the ICE 3 from Frankfurt to Cologne as follows: "The new flagship of the Bundesbahn is a train, streamlined. Departure 11:36 a.m. 700 passengers. At 11:59 a.m. the maximum speed is reached. It is announced. There is no speedometer in the compartment. Tunnel entry. No loud noise, just a quiet roar. A BGS helicopter escorts the speeding wonder, barely keeping up at 300. The Taunus, the Westerwald, the Siebengebirge - everything passes by in a flash."
These descriptions are now 20 years old. Nevertheless, with its top speed of 300 kilometers per hour, the route is still one of the most modern high-speed lines in Europe. Cologne and Frankfurt would have to get used to the idea of being called each other's suburbs, joked Roland Koch, the prime minister at the time. In fact, the Siegburg surrounding area has now also become a preferred place to live for people who work in Frankfurt.
But this speed also comes at a price: Originally, a project manager at Deutsche Bahn estimated the cost of the ICE route at 2.7 billion euros. But by the time the shuttle service between Cologne and Bonn opened on August 1, 2002, Bahn AG had already invested six billion euros in the line. There were plenty of reasons for the cost increases and also construction delays. In the sections between Königswinter and Dierdorf, the railroad had to wait an average of 46.5 months for the authority to build. The section in the Siebengebirge region took 29 months to build.
"The demands from the districts, citizens and initiatives also helped drive up the costs," reported Udo Kampschulte, spokesman for DB-Projekt GmbH, at the time. On the one hand, the region wanted to be connected to the international high-speed rail network. "On the other hand, the encroachment on the landscape was nevertheless considerable," said Franz Möller, the district administrator at the time. Some tunnel projects also became expensive. Individual tubes were built longer than originally planned. "At the last moment, the railroad representatives agreed to extend the Pleisbach tunnel from 500 meters to two kilometers," District Administrator Möller rejoiced at the time. "We also got the lowering of the track on Königswinter and Bad Honnef through at the last minute." According to Kampschulte, the fact that some of the mountains were more rocky than expected also drove up costs.
Since the 1970’s: Discussion about the construction
The discussion about building a new high-speed rail line started back in the early 1970’s. At that time, the Cologne-Rhine/Main line had reached its load limit. The groundbreaking ceremony on May 13, 1997, finally marked the start of the six-year construction period for the 177-kilometer line with 30 tunnels. The beginnings at the Siegburg ICE stop in July 2003 were initially still associated with a number of obstacles. The station building was not yet ready, and in the first few months there was only a provisional timetable. Just three ICE trains to Frankfurt and three to Cologne stopped in Siegburg every day at the beginning.
Today, Siegburg is firmly integrated into the plans of the ICE network; more than 70 ICE trains stop there every day, and several tens of thousands of rail passengers use the high-speed connection between Cologne and Frankfurt every day. Regular service with a stop in Siegburg began on December 15 of the same year. But it did not run smoothly: Time and again, ICE passengers simply got left behind at Siegburg station because the ICE passed them without stopping. Apparently, some train conductors had not yet internalized the new stop.
(Orig. text: Scarlet Schmitz / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)