The Intercity-Express (written as InterCityExpress in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and, formerly, in Germany) or ICE is a system of high-speed trains predominantly running in Germany and neighbouring countries. It is the highest service category offered by DB Fernverkehr and is the flagship of Deutsche Bahn. The brand name "ICE" is among the most well known in Germany, with a brand awareness close to 100%, according to DB.
There are currently 259 trainsets in five different versions of the ICE vehicles in use, named ICE 1 (deployed in 1991), ICE 2 (1996), ICE T (1999), ICE 3 (1999) and ICE TD (2001–2003, back in service 2007). The ICE 3, including its variant models, is made by a consortium led by Bombardier and Siemens.
Apart from domestic use, the trains can also be seen in countries neighbouring Germany. There are, for example, ICE 1 lines to Basel and Zurich. ICE 3 trains also run to Liège and Brussels and at lower speeds to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. On 10 June 2007, a new line between Paris and Frankfurt/Stuttgart was opened, jointly operated by ICE and TGV trains. In addition, ICE Trains to London via the Channel Tunnel are planned for 2013.
While ICE 3M run the Paris-to-Frankfurt branch (with exceptions to trains 9553/9552, which operates with TGV POS equipment and cross-crewed with both SNCF and DB staff), SNCF's TGV runs from Paris to Munich (via Stuttgart), with mixed crews on both trains.
German and Austrian ICE T trains run to Vienna. On 9 December 2007, the ICE TD was introduced on the service from Berlin via Hamburg to the Danish cities of Århus and Copenhagen.The Spanish railway operator RENFE also employs trains based on ICE 3 trains (Siemens Velaro). Wider versions were ordered by China for the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed rail (CRH 3) and by Russia for the Moscow – Saint Petersburg and the Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod routes (Velaro RUS).
The Deutsche Bundesbahn started a series of trials in 1985 using the InterCityExperimental (also called ICE-V) test train. The IC Experimental was used as a showcase train and for high-speed trials, setting a new world speed record at 406.9 km/h (253 mph) on 1 May 1988. The train was retired in 1996 and replaced with a new trial unit, called the ICE S. After extensive discussion between the Bundesbahn and the Ministry of Transport regarding onboard equipment, length and width of the train and the number of trainsets required, a first batch of 41 units was ordered in 1988. The order was extended to 60 units in 1990, with German reunification in mind. However, not all trains could be delivered in time.The ICE network was officially inaugurated on 29 May 1991 with several vehicles converging on the newly built station Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe from different directions.
The first ICE trains were the trainsets of ICE 1 (power cars: Class 401), which came into service in 1989. The first regularly scheduled ICE trains ran from 2 June 1991 from Hamburg-Altona via Hamburg Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf and Stuttgart Hbf toward München Hbf on the new ICE line 6. The Hanover-Würzburg line and the Mannheim-Stuttgart line, which had both opened the same year, were hence integrated into the ICE network from the very beginning.Due to the lack of trainsets in 1991 and early 1992, the ICE line 4 (Bremen Hbf – Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Würzburg Hbf – Nürnberg Hbf – München Hbf) couldn't start operating until 1 June 1992. Prior to that date, ICE trainsets were used when available and were integrated in the Intercity network and with IC tariffs.In 1993, the ICE line 6's terminus was moved from Hamburg to Berlin (later, in 1998, via the Hanover-Berlin line and the former IC line 3 from Hamburg-Altona via Hannover Hbf – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Frankfurt Hbf – Mannheim Hbf – Karlsruhe Hbf – Freiburg Hbf to Basel SBB was upgraded to ICE standards as a replacement).
A notable characteristic of the ICE trains is their colour design, which has been registered by the DB as an aesthetic model and hence is protected as intellectual property. The trains are painted in Pale Grey (RAL 7035) with a Traffic Red (RAL 3020) stripe on the lower part of the vehicle. The continuous black band of windows and their oval door windows differentiate the ICEs from any other DB train.The ICE 1 and ICE 2 units originally had an Orient Red (RAL 3031) stripe, accompanied by a Pastel Violet stripe below (RAL 4009, 26 cm wide). These stripes were repainted with the current Traffic Red between 1998 and 2000, when all ICE units were being checked and repainted in anticipation of the EXPO 2000.The "ICE" lettering uses the colour Agate Grey (RAL 7038), the frame is painted in Quartz Grey (RAL 7039). The plastic platings in the interior all utilise the Pale Grey (RAL 7035) colour tone. Originally, the ICE 1 interior was designed in pastel tones with an emphasis on mint, following the DB colour scheme of the day. The ICE 1 trains were refurbished in the mid-2000s, however, and now follow the same design as the ICE 3, which makes heavy usage of indirect lighting and wooden furnishings.The distinctive ICE design was developed by a team of designers around Alexander Neumeister in the early 1980s and first used on the InterCityExperimental (ICE V). The team around Neumeister then designed the ICE 1, ICE 2, and ICE 3/T/TD. The interior of the trains was designed by Jens Peters working for BPR-Design in Stuttgart. Among others, he was responsible for the heightened roof in the restaurant car and the special lighting. The same team also developed the design for the now discontinued InterRegio trains in the mid-1980s.