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In April this year, Deutsche Bahn (in cooperation with Polish partners) launched a cross-border IC Bus service linking Berlin and Kraków — with stops along the way in Wroclaw and Katowice. Departure is from Berlin at 11:45 am daily. From Kraków the bus leaves at 10:06 am.
Transit time from Berlin to Kraków (or vice versa) is 8 hrs 14 mins. This is faster than any rail connection between the two cities — and since the last remaining direct train was axed last December, the bus has the advantage of not requiring an en route change.
Bus versus train
Whether one wants to spend eight hours on a bus, even one with all mod cons like the IC Bus, is a good question. We’ve never been inclined to rush, so we would most likely still opt for the train, even if it does involve a change and take an hour or more longer.
The fact that the bus beats the train is less a comment on the niftiness of the bus than a reflection of how woefully slow the cross-border trains are. In the 1930s, the fastest trains sped from Berlin to Wroclaw in less than three hours. Now they take almost twice that time.
Train tickets for the bus
The new bus link is fully integrated into the DB ticketing system. So the great-value “Europa-Spezial Polen” fare can be used to book a through journey from anywhere on the DB system to Kraków, allowing travel to Berlin by ICE train to connect there with the bus to Poland.
Tickets go on sale three months in advance, with one-way fares from principal German cities (including Frankfurt, Cologne and Hamburg) to Kraków starting at €39.
If all you are looking to do is ride the bus from Berlin (with no connecting train to Berlin), then look to pay €29 one way — provided of course you book in advance. If you hold a DB BahnCard 25, then you’ll get 25% off all fares on cross-border journeys on the new IC Bus.
First IC Bus within Germany
Also in April, DB launched a domestic bus service between Munich and Freiburg im Breisgau. This is a key link between Bavaria and the Upper Rhine Valley and connects two cities where the rail journey would be circuitous. It can certainly be handled by train, but you’ll always have to change on the way, usually at Mannheim or Karlsruhe.
The new IC Bus is no faster than the train, but it wins out on convenience. It is direct. And it can be very much cheaper. One-way fares start at €19 (with a discount for BahnCard holders). There are six journeys a day. The transit time is 4 hrs 35 mins.
More routes to come
The DB website suggests more routes will be launched in the future. IC Bus looks like a brand that’s set to grow.
DB already has two other bus routes linking Nuremberg and Munich with Prague in the Czech Republic. These were launched to compensate for the relatively poor cross-border rail connections between Bavaria and neighboring Bohemia. It will be interesting to see whether these two routes are in time assimilated into the new IC Bus brand.