A Dresden-bound double-deck IC2 train, of the Stadler KISS variety, close to Diedersdorf in Brandenburg, Germany (photo © hidden europe).
It’s not so very long ago that all daytime German long-distance trains were single deck. Double-deck trains have long been used for regional services, but there are also plenty of single deck regional trains. There’s also been a smattering of double deck sleeping cars used on overnight services.
But things are changing in the daytime long-distance market. Deutsche Bahn’s (DB) posh ICE trains are still all single-deck affairs. But now we see more double-deck Intercity (IC) trains. These are branded IC2 services.
A lot of the regular single-deck Intercity stock is now quite aged, so with the new IC2 trains, DB brings new life into the Intercity market with trains which, at their best, are comfortable and very environmentally friendly.
But we have realized that not all IC2 trains are the same. There are evidently two rather different versions of this double-deck train.
The very first IC2 trains to appear in Germany were loco-hauled electric trains with five carriages. These were Bombardier Twindexx trains. The carriages are in effect a similar ‘shell’ to that used on double-deck regional trains, but with the interior fitted out to a rather higher spec. We have travelled on these trains on routes in western Germany, such as from Stuttgart south to Singen and from Cologne to Braunschweig.
These early IC2 trains are perfectly okay. One of the five carriages has first-class seating on both levels, and elsewhere on the train there is ample space for wheelchair users and cyclists. All very nice, though we do hear that the IC2 version of the Bombardier Twindexx trains has had various teething problems, mainly relating to the on-board electrical systems.
In recent months, we’ve travelled a few times on a quite different kind of DB IC2 train. These are Stadler KISS electric-multiple units with just four carriages. As far as we know, they mainly operate on just one route, that from Warnemünde (on Germany’s Baltic coast) to Dresden, serving Rostock and Berlin along the way. They are also used for a once-daily overnight train from Warnemünde to Vienna which routes via Berlin, Leipzig, Nürnberg, Passau and Linz. With only seated accommodation on board, no couchettes or sleepers, it may not be everyone’s first choice for a long overnight trip.
Having tried both versions of the IC2, we have to say that the interior look and feel of the Stadler KISS units is much more pleasing than the loco-hauled Bombardier trains. The ride is remarkably smooth and the acceleration is very fast, but without any sense of discomfort. The Stadler KISS units were acquired from troubled Austrian operator Westbahn. It’s not quite the first time that these Stadler KISS trains have appeared in Germany on an IC service. The Luxembourg state operator CLF has a once-daily run from Luxembourg to Düsseldorf and back, and that train is classed as an IC north of Koblenz, though in reality it doesn’t really offer much by way of IC service.
On both DB variants of the IC2, there’s a basic offering of snacks and drinks. This is of course quite a difference from the regular single-deck IC trains, the majority of which have a restaurant car or an onboard bistro with a range of hot meals. IC2 passengers don’t get such luxuries. Oddly, the menu on the two different IC2 train types is not the same. The white wine on offer on the Stadler KISS trains is streaks ahead of what you’ll find on the Bombardier services, but oddly there’s no red wine at all on the KISS units. You can drink prosecco on the overnight run to Vienna (or indeed during the day as the KISS trains shuttle from the Baltic to Saxony and back), but you’ll search in vain for sparkling wine on the Bombardier trains.
Lavazza coffee for €2.50 a cup on the Bombardier trains but Dallmayr espresso at €2 a shot with KISS. All in all, the KISS trains in eastern Germany (and on that nightly jaunt to Vienna) have much the better range with a tasty selection of wraps and sandwiches – which just don’t feature on the Bombardier services.
So, all in all, our vote goes for the Stadler KISS rendition of the IC2. That doesn’t mean that we are just itching to ride all the way to Vienna on one.
About The Authors
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 17th edition of that book will be published in mid-April 2022. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.