TRANSPORT ministers from multiple European Union (EU) member states have signed a letter of intent to create the Trans-Europe Express (TEE) 2.0 network first announced in September 2020 during the German presidency of the EU.

The signing took place during a conference organised by German federal transport minister, Mr Andreas Scheuer, on May 17, and includes a number of pledges which expand the initial TEE 2.0 concept.

The agreement foresees the development of a regular interval timetable on a pan-European basis to provide an alternative to short-haul flights and car journeys. The original German proposal for the TEE 2.0 concept assumes:

  • TEE 2.0 services connect at least three EU member states or two member states over at least 600km
  • TEE 2.0 trains operate at a minimum of 160km/h on a substantial part of the route or an average speed of more than 100km/h on the entire route, and
  • TEE 2.0 offers increased comfort, with free Wi-Fi and restaurant cars.

While the letter of intent is not legally binding, the signatories agree to identify which railway operators from their respective countries want to be involved in delivering future TEE 2.0 services. They also pledged to act as facilitators to ensure that rail operators and infrastructure managers in neighbouring countries make meaningful progress in developing TEE 2.0 plans.

In addition, the signatories agreed to request that the European Commission (EC) propose the launch of an EU financial assistance programme to invest in rolling stock that can operate across borders. They also agreed to lobby for further technical and operational improvements to facilitate the operation of cross-border rail services.

Under the new agreement, and to support the prospective operators, the EU member states promise to act as moderators in the development of timetables. They also vow to support the creation of an interoperable digital booking platform which supports booking international journeys offered by TEE 2.0 operators, which should be as straightforward as domestic journeys. How such a system would deal with the domestic parts of journeys to or from the high-speed rail network, and how third-party rail ticket sales websites might be included, is unclear.

A proposed network published after the conference has been expanded compared with the earlier iteration, which was centred on central Europe. It now includes routes that can be achieved relatively simply such as Barcelona - Nice - Venice as well as others such as Warsaw - Riga - Tallinn that rely on major new infrastructure projects now underway, in this case Rail Baltica, which is due to open in 2026.

Some existing high frequency international links have also been included at the request of EU member states, including Amsterdam - London route serving non-EU member, Britain.

Via Vindobona declaration

Separately, as part of the conference, Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the future expansion of the Berlin – Dresden – Prague - Vienna Via Vindobona international connection.

The declaration outlines the planned high-speed line and other infrastructure plans for the route and should lead to reduced journey times of 2h 30min for Prague - Berlin/Vienna. When all necessary planned high-speed lines in Germany and the Czech Republic are completed, a new Berlin - Prague - Vienna limited stop service is expected to take 4h 5min.