The InterCity Express or ICE is a type of high-speed train operated by DB Fernverkehr in Germany and neighbouring countries, for example to Zürich, Switzerland or Vienna, Austria.
ICE-trains also run at lower speeds to Amsterdam, Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium.
The Spanish railway operator RENFE also employs these trains, and the Russian state ordered 60 for new high-speed routes between St Petersburg and Moscow.
Equipment and specifications
ICE equipment is manufactured by an industrial consortium led by Siemens AG.
ICE trains require special high-speed tracks to run at high speeds, but can run on normal tracks at normal speeds.
The first generations were derived from the then new class 120 electric locomotives.
The powerheads of those units are in fact upgraded 120s with a more aerodynamic lining.
Passenger cars can be coupled and uncoupled for maintenance, enabling the operator to run trains of different lengths.
First-generation trains are currently undergoing a major redesign, including a standardization of train lengths.
The third generation ICE has a completely different concept:
The entire traction equipment is fitted underfloor, with a larger number of less powerful motors.
A ICE 3 unit consists of eight cars, four of which are powered, while the others carry other electrical equipment, including the pantographs.
This design allow seats in all parts of the train, including "lounge" seats at both ends separated from the driver by a glass wall only.
The ICE 3M (class 406) is a multisystem variant of the ICE 3 that currently serves routes into the Netherlands and Belgium.
Licensing for French LGVs started in 2001 and has been described by engineers as a "clash of cultures".
Problems included flying gravel and trackside equipment ripped loose by the ICE's magnetic brakes.
Admission of the ICE 3M for regular service into France is expected late 2005 or early 2006.
Simultaneously to the development of the ICE 3, DB demanded new tilting train sets to be able to serve conventional tracks that couldn't be upgraded to higher speeds.
Originally these trains were to be called IC-T (InterCity-Triebzug), but just prior to their introduction, DB decided to charge ICE fares for these trains and renamed them ICE-T.
These trains are constructed to a concept of distributed traction similar to the ICE 3.
Three different types were ordered:
The electric units, equipped with tilting technology of the ETR-460 bought from FIAT, entered service in 1998.
A second order for additional series 411 ICE-Ts.
These units, known as ICE-T2, were delivered in 2004.
The main difference to the original ICE-Ts are several cost-cutting measures, giving those trains a "cheaper" look and feel.
For the diesel units, called ICE-TD, Siemens developed their own tilting technology, based on the aiming system of the Leopard 2 main gun.
These train sets became something of an embarrassment.
They were to be delivered in 2000, but braking problems caused delays, so they entered service in spring 2001.
Their first year in operation was overshadowed by software failures and problems with the tilting technology.
One of the 20 trains fell off a maintenance platform and had to be written off.
When those problems were fixed and the train finally ran without apparent problems in December 2002, a train derailed because of a broken axle.
The trains were temporarily pulled out of service by the federal rail authority.
When Siemens had fixed the problem, DB refused to take the trains back, claiming they weren't meeting specifications.
It is speculated that besides technical difficulties, these trains were an economical burden as well.
Source claim that even when filled to capacity, income from fares would be below the operating cost.
The ICE originated as a concept for new land-based high-speed public transportation for Germany, competing with the Transrapid monorail system.
The ICE succeeded in being adopted nationwide in Germany, but development on the Transrapid system has also continued.
It is argued that the ICE prospered in part because of its ability to run on conventional tracks (albeit not at full speeds - on tracks near stations they are known to be passed by commuter trains, especially by S-Bahn trains).
The shared use of old tracks also means that conventional trains often have to wait for late ICEs to pass, leading to further delays.
In 1998, a large ICE train accident occurred - Germany's worst ever passenger train disaster.
The accident was due to the steel "tire" being separated from the rest of one of the train's wheels, breaking the track and causing the rest of the t rain to derail and collide with a concrete bridge that spanned the track.
At the time, the ICE trains used a two part wheel with a steel tire separated from the rest of the steel wheel by an elastomeric ring designed to better absorb noise and vibration.
But the elastomeric separator allowed the steel tire to flex, eventually leading to metal fatigue that fractured the tire.
While common in low-speed use, this two-part wheel design had never before been used on high-speed trains.
ICE service was resumed only after an investigation found the root cause of this broken wheel and after all ICE train wheels were modified to use a more conventional solid-wheel design.
The initial development of the ICE was somewhat controversial, due to the existence of the French TGV, which had already been in operation.
Arguably, the Deutsche Bahn/German state could have bought TGV technology or trains.
Proponents of the decision to go ahead and develop the ICE contend that the ICE is technologically superior, and that the development of such technology by German companies was an important investment in the future of a German high-tech industry and knowledge economy.
Critics argue that the project was a waste of tax payers' money, since such a similar end product could have been bought "off the shelf" (referring to the option of buying TGV trains).
There were also claims that it was a nationalist exercise, and that the go-ahead for ICE development constituted the then German government subsidizing certain large companies.
This argument, however, subsided and the ICE has persevered to provide a large scale, nationwide service in Germany.
All seats have an audio mini jack, allowing passengers to plug in headphones and choose from about 7 music/entertainment channels and radio stations.
Basic headphones can be purchased on the trains. On most ICE trains, there is at least one carriage where individual seats are equipped with LCD screens, built into the backrest of the seat in front.
Usually there are two video channels to choose from, which typically show feature films.
There are no speakers, but the corresponding audio is available via the audio mini jack (see above).
ICE2, ICE3 and ICE-T trains have power outlets for electrical devices such as laptops; these are hidden under the tray tables.
An electronic 20-character display above each seat indicates the locations between which the seat has been reserved.
Passengers without reservation are permitted to take the seats with a blank display, or the seats with no reservation on the current section.
At both ends of ICE3 trains there is a passenger compartment (one end 1st and the other end 2nd class) with a view of the tracks, through a transparent glass wall separating the compartment from the driver's cabin.
In special circumstances the driver can make the wall opaque by the press of a button.
There is a compartment with a play area for children.
All ICEs have repeater carriages.
These are equipped with technology to enable mobile phone use, since the metal coating on the windows normally makes this impossible.
These carriages are marked with a symbol depicting a mobile phone.
In certain silent carriages use of laptops, mobile phones and other "noisy" equipment is prohibited.
These carry a sticker displaying a whispering symbol.
When not in service, all ICE trains are kept in special train yards to prevent vandalism.
For a more information about InterCity_Express see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InterCity_Express) see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, September 2005.
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in September 2005. E. & O.E.
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