There are two high-ish speed routes between Paris Est and Frankfurt(Main)Hbf by train – the shorter one in terms of route-km but with less high speed infrastructure via Saarbrücken (mapped here), and the 70km longer one but with more high speed lines via Strasbourg and Karlsruhe (mapped here). Both give a Paris – Frankfurt trip time of around 3 hours 45 minutes.
At the moment there are 5 trains a day Paris-Frankfurt (3 ICEs, 2 TGVs), with 3 running via Saarbrücken and 2 via Strasbourg and Karlsruhe. There are additionally 4 trains a day (2 ICEs, 2 TGVs) from Paris to Stuttgart, all of which run via Strasbourg and Karlsruhe. And 1 daily TGV Marseille-Frankfurt via Karlsruhe and Strasbourg, and 1 daily Paris-Freiburg(Breisgau) via Strasbourg. All these services are daily – seasonal and irregular services are not listed.
To complete the picture, this gives Karlsruhe 7 trains a day to Paris and Saarbrücken 3. Karlsruhe meanwhile also has more than a dozen national ICEs to Berlin, but Saarbrücken has no train to Berlin at all. And Strasbourg has no daily trains to Berlin either.
So what is happening?
After a summit between the bosses of SNCF and Deutsche Bahn last year it was announced that possibly in 2023, although more likely in 2024, there would be a 1 daily direct high speed service between Paris and Berlin, most likely using a ICE (due to the signalling systems required), but it was not stated if this would be an extension of an existing service Paris-Frankfurt, or an additional train.
This train would have a trip time of at least 7:45. Too slow to be competitive with flying, and a service that is too thin to be meaningful – just 1 train a day.
So what has happened as plans for this have proceeded?
An almighty fight has broken out between Strasbourg and Karlsruhe on one side, and Saarbrücken on the other as to how to route the sole Paris-Berlin train. They all want the train to stop in their cities.
Seriously, get a grip.
The problem here is not where this single train stops. The problem is that the trip time is too long, and there are still simply too few trains on France-Germany high speed routes. The best bet – so as to keep everyone happy! – would be to run two direct trains a day Berlin-Paris, 1 via Karlsruhe and Strasbourg, and 1 via Saarbrücken.
Oh and if I were really dreaming step up the frequency overall, to have a ICE or TGV at least every 2 hours from Frankfurt to Paris, and the other hour one from Stuttgart to Paris. And that throughout the day. From early morning to late evening, in both directions. Oh and how about a regional train between Strasbourg and Karlsruhe as well, if these two cities really want to show what strong partners they are? Because that would be a lot more useful than an occasional high speed train Berlin-Paris. But that is not even in planning.
So – in short – stop the silly squabbles and aim to systematically improve France-Germany long distance connections instead, and think of improving regional connections as well.
But, ah, no, silly me. That’s hard. And meaningful. Let’s all try and get some cheap headlines instead!