Monday, January 08, 2018

IC2 on the Gaeubahn

Since the start of the winter schedule in December 2017 the new IC2 units operate about half of the Intercity trains on the Gaeubahn between Zurich and Stuttgart via Singen (Hohentwiel). For now these trains only run on the German side between Stuttgart and Singen, but will provide direct service to and from Zurich once the required ETCS software is available and approved by the Swiss authorities.

The IC2 units operate as a 5 car push-pull train with a locomotive and control cab car. The look is very similar to the ubiquitous regional bi-level ("Doppelstock" or "Dosto") cars that have been in operation for several years. I read that the loading gauge of the IC2 trains has been modified to meet swiss measurement requirements.

Cars and locomotive are not intended to be separated, which seems weird to me, but allows for little details like having the car number painted on the outside and inside of the train, or end doors between cars that both open automatically when actuated on one side. No more open door, step into crossing between cars, then open second door, a game I loved playing as a kid. (However, replacement of manual doors with actuated or automatic doors on modern cars took some of the fun out of that game years ago...)

Another odd detail is that the doors of the cab car are a bit lower than the doors of the middle cars. That might be intentional, maybe a side-effect of using different base models for construction of the cars.

At Stuttgart the platform edge is higher than the door step of the cab car. Thus, while there is plenty of storage space on the lower level, entry is not barrier-free.

The lower level of the cab car has space for at least six bicycles, multiple strollers, and/or loads of suitcases, as well as a spacious restroom.

At least the second car has an additional bicycle storage spot. Another hint that the designs of cab car and middle cars have different roots. As a bicyclist, I'm not complaining. As an engineer, I'm scratching my head about the logic of creating a unit train with this configuration.

Enough complaining. On to what most passengers see, and where they spent most of their time. Seating in both the upper deck and lower deck has generous space for legs and feels airy.

I felt like there's limited storage space for large suitcases, especially on the upper deck. My blue suitcase fills one of the two storage locations there.
The stairs are easy to navigate even with luggage, not too steep and quite roomy. The photo shows the rear stairs in the cab car with the conductor's office to the left of the door to the next car.

The seats are comfortable and optionally slide forward a little bit. There's a power outlet for every two seats. I happen to be sitting in the family area for travellers with kids. Since this train was more or less empty, I was by myself on the upper deck of the cab car for the whole trip.

Next to the family area is an appropriately designed compartment for families with small kids, including a play corner. Parents are expected to provide kids and toys.

Apparently DB invested not only in new trains, but also a new marketing concept for the Gaeubahn. Now it's apparently chic again to reference the name of the line in official material, instead of the rather utilitarian Kursbuchstrecke (KBS) 740.

The functional charme of the SSB Intercity cars operating from Singen to Zurich is a clear step down from the IC2. I'm hoping the approval of IC2 for Switzerland is not too far off, and maybe next time  I can enjoy the ride all the way to Zurich without having to change trains in Singen.

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