Cycle schedule

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Timetable of the Zillertalbahn at the train station Strass (Tyrol)

A cycle timetable is a timetable in which public transport lines are operated at regular, periodically repeating intervals. The number of departures in a certain period of time is called the "frequency".


Departure plan for Zurich tram line 3 at seven-and-a-half-minute intervals, in order to avoid half-minute departure times in communication with passengers, however, every second entry is rounded off by 30 seconds

In the dense city traffic, cycle frequencies are particularly common in which the departure minute is repeated every 60 minutes (numbers are multiples of 60) and thus enable regularly recurring connections between lines with different frequencies . Typical intervals in local traffic are therefore one and a half, two, two and a half, three, four, five, six, seven and a half, ten, twelve, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. In long-distance passenger rail transport, on the other hand, in addition to the classic hourly cycle, two- and four-hour cycles can also be found. The hourly service introduced by Intercity in Germany in 1979 was advertised with the slogan “only the tram goes more often”. In the case of night trains , which usually only run once a day or even less frequently, there is no regular service.

In practice, the seven-and-a-half-minute intervals, also 7.5-minute intervals or 7½-minute intervals, are often used, but usually run as seven-eight-minute intervals to avoid half-minute departure times. It is different in Swiss local transport; there an exact seven and a half minute cycle is run. However, in the official timetable, i.e. the times that are communicated to the passengers, the half times are rounded down to full departure minutes.

Special cases are, for example, the 71-minute intervals that are common in some night -time traffic , with easily noticeable departure times at a central departure point at 0:00 a.m., 1:11 a.m., 2:22 a.m., 3:33 a.m., 4:44 a.m. and 5: 55 o'clock is made possible by the three-three-four-minute cycle on the Nuremberg subway , which guarantees a departure at the same final minute at least every ten minutes, the 24-minute cycle on the Gornergratbahn or the earlier 50-minute cycle at the Stubaitalbahn .

The opposite of a clean-interval timetable is called the alternating cycle , Hinke clock , Holpertakt , Humpeltakt , stumbling stroke , stuttering clock or crooked clock . An example of this is the 20/40 minute rhythm of the Nuremberg S-Bahn during off-peak hours.


The world's first public transport system, the horse-drawn bus system Carrosses à cinq sols in Paris , operated on what is now known as a regular schedule. The system existed from 1662 to 1682 and, according to the concession, consisted of five lines that should run every seven and a half minutes during rush hour: the so-called eighth hour was a common time specification at the time. The fact that the system only existed for a few years was due to the lack of traffic, a completely excessive offer for the conditions at the time, the use of which had been significantly restricted by the Paris city representatives before its introduction, ultimately not economically after an opening euphoria just a few months after its introduction was to operate.

In the second half of the 19th century, the principle of a clocked timetable , then referred to with different terms, was best known that of the rigid timetable , first in urban horse-drawn trams and later also in electric trams . Only then can the existing at regular intervals settled on the still mostly single-track lines Dodge optimally utilized. Rhythmic or rigid timetables are also terms that should conceptualize the volume of traffic that changes over the course of the day and the changes in the timetable.

Railways in the metropolitan area, for example the Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863 and the Berlin Stadt- und Ringbahn opened in 1882, were already running at fixed intervals. The same goes for the Albtalbahn , which ran between Karlsruhe and Ettlingen every 30 minutes and between Karlsruhe and Rüppurr even every ten minutes. The same applied to certain routes with heavy excursion traffic; even before the First World War , the Isar Valley Railway ran every 15 minutes and the Königsseebahn every 20 minutes. In the interwar period, the Ruhr Schnellverkehr (RSV) followed this concept from 1932 and the Stuttgart suburban traffic from 1933.

In 1908, regular service was first introduced on a main railway line in the Netherlands. In order to be competitive with the rival route The Hague – Delft – Rotterdam, regular traffic was introduced on the Hofpleinlijn Scheveningen - The Hague - Rotterdam-Hofplein, which is now operated as a light rail line by Randstad Rail .

Outside of city high-speed railways , a cycle timetable was used for the first time on the Dutch Railways network, even if it was not yet called that . It had gradually converted its network in the 1920s and 1930s. The network was reduced in size by closing the line and switching to bus traffic. There are different statements about the completion of the changeover to a 30 to 120 minute cycle, which mention the years 1931, 1936 and 1939. This was favored by the heavy traffic between the cities of the Randstad , so that the Swiss Timetable Commission in 1953 spoke of a tram-like traffic.

As early as 1940, John Frederick Pownall worked out an integral cycle timetable for southern England: He divided the secondary route network into 80 km long sections with edge times of the express trains of 50 minutes each (without intermediate stops) and the regional trains of one hour 45 minutes each; The proposal deliberately ignored the main routes emanating from London. Pownall also planned the construction of short new lines if this was necessary to achieve these generally defined edge times between two clock nodes. In the junction stations , the platforms should be arranged in such a way that the express trains stop for ten minutes one behind the other on both sides of a wide central platform and the regional trains end or start at tongue platforms in the middle of the express trains.

In 1949 August Roesener proposed a rigid timetable for the network of the Deutsche Bundesbahn , i.e. a regular timetable for long-distance traffic. In the end, there should be a four-hour interval for express trains in the network, which should be linked to one another with the most favorable transfer options at numerous nodes. For these distances, Roesener used the term clock , which is the first time that the term clock timetable can be proven in the German-speaking area.

After already on May 26, 1963 (formally approved until 31 May 1964) the private United Bern-Worb-Bahn (VBW) on the railway line Worb village Worblaufen to Switzerland's introduced the first all-day interval timetable on a railway line, followed in 1968, the State Railways SBB with a successful rigid half-hourly service on the right bank of the Zürichseebahn . Subsequently, in 1970/71 the state railway there introduced a junction timetable under the name "Spoorslag '70" in the Netherlands , before - again in Switzerland - the clock timetable on the aforementioned Worb Dorf – Worblaufen railway on May 26, 1974 also on the neighboring ones The Zollikofen – Bern and Solothurn – Worblaufen lines were extended. At that time, the first integral cycle timetable in Switzerland was created under the name Plan 74 .

Platform-level connection in the German InterCity network, here in Cologne in 1980

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Intercity network from 1971 was based for the first time on a large scale on a long-distance timetable, in which almost all international Trans-Europ-Express trains were integrated. Initially, only every two hours and purely first-class trains were driven, before the offer was condensed in 1979 under the slogan “Every hour, every class” to an hourly service with both car classes .

SBB poster "We drive with rhythm" from 1982

In Switzerland, in May 1982, a comprehensive, integral clock timetable was introduced based on the idea of ​​the “ Spinner Club ” project group led by Samuel Stähli , which - with the exception of a few excursion trams and branch lines - was used on all railway lines and also Postbus lines ( intercity bus lines ). The basic cycle was one train per hour. “We drive with rhythm - your SBB” was the SBB's advertising slogan. A sound carrier with songs and instrumental melodies for the regular timetable was released for the major timetable change. On it were u. a. Nöggi , Edi Bär and Beny Rehmann to hear. This system has been improved every two years. The development initially ended with the Bahn 2000 program of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) presented in 1985 and resolved at the end of 1987 , which provided for a connection of all centers of the Swiss Central Plateau by express train traffic every hour.

In German regional rail traffic, the new type of train City-Bahn (CB) introduced in 1984 on the Cologne - Meinerzhagen route had a regular schedule relatively early on. The relevant advertising motto was “City-Bahn - without traffic jams every hour”. In 1987, the modernized Chiemgaubahn and the regional train (RB), which was newly introduced in the same year, were followed for the first time by a railway line away from a metropolitan area. Other types of train that were newly introduced at that time with the quality feature of regular traffic were the Interregio from 1988 and the Regional Schnellbahn (RSB) from 1989.

Later, the first initiatives to introduce an integral regular timetable came from the federal states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. In the early 1990s, the Federal Ministry of Transport, the German Transport Forum and the Deutsche Bundesbahn jointly commissioned studies on the feasibility of an ITF in southwest Germany. Due to the size of the regional transport network of the former Federal Railroad and the associated scope of planning, the concept should first be introduced in a sub-area. Metropolitan areas should be excluded because local transport there had already been modernized and rationalized. The southwest was selected after the affected federal states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate had given decisive support and co-financed the planning.

The pilot project was called the Integral Timetable South-West . It not only looked at the timetable, but also included other attractive features such as operating times, vehicles and train stations and gave suggestions for reactivations. In addition, with the introduction of ICE transport to and from Hamburg in 1991, regional rail passenger transport in Schleswig-Holstein was reorganized around the Husum and Lübeck hubs. The Allgäu-Swabia cycle was introduced in 1993 as the first integral cycle timetable in Germany . The associated increase in supply even before the rail reform led to a higher proportion of the so-called regionalization funds for the state of Bavaria, as the key date for their measurement was the number of train kilometers before the rail reform at the turn of the year 1993/1994.

In 1993 the state of Thuringia commissioned a study on the nationwide introduction of an ITF. In 1995 Thuringia introduced preliminary stages of an ITF, in 1995 and 1997 ITF preliminary stages followed in the area of ​​the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund , in 1996 Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt and in 1998 North Rhine-Westphalia. Most of the other federal states followed with preliminary stages and conceptual planning until 2001. On June 2, 2002, a regular timetable was also introduced in Finnish long-distance rail traffic. At the regional level, the transport associations often offer cycle timetables with a basic cycle of 20 or 30 minutes, which is condensed to ten or five or fifteen or seven and a half minutes by superimposing lines. In some areas, regional bus traffic was also included , for example at RegioTakt in North Rhine-Westphalia and in parts of Lower Saxony .


ÖBB advertisement for the Austrotakt from 1982

In Austria, the municipal Viennese electric light rail , which opened in 1925, and the Purkersdorfer commuter of the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) set up in 1931 were already running on the Western Railway on a regular basis in the interwar period . The Wiener Schnellbahn followed in 1962 , in 1975 there was a two-hour long-distance service between Vienna and Salzburg, in 1976 the Vienna – Graz route and in 1978 the Vienna – Villach route. From 1981 the state railway finally separated the trains Vienna – Graz and Vienna – Villach, which resulted in an hourly service between the capital and Bruck an der Mur. The commissioning of the Rosenheim loop in 1982 made it possible to introduce a two-hour cycle between Salzburg and Innsbruck, while at the same time the ÖBB condensed the timetable between Vienna and Salzburg to an hourly cycle. The new service from 1982, which also integrated international trains, was called Austro-Takt .

A further step was the introduction of regular traffic between Bregenz and Feldkirch in 1986, before finally, from 1991, with the so-called New Austrotakt (NAT), a nationwide integral timetable for long-distance and local traffic came into effect. Independently of this, some private railways were already running in time, including the Salzburger Lokalbahn from 1981, the Stubaitalbahn from 1983 and the Wiener Lokalbahn from 1984.


The aim of a clock traffic is to increase the attractiveness and uses a means of transport or the existing infrastructure - for example, dodging on single-track lines - optimal use. The cyclical timetable offers the passenger the advantage of a better memorability of the departure times, since these usually repeat every hour at the same minutes. A steady cycle can also lead to an improved supply in times of low demand. For transport companies, a regularly repeated operational sequence is of interest to which vehicles and infrastructure can be tailored precisely.

The opposite of a timetable based on fixed intervals are traffic offers that are carried out at irregular intervals. Demand-oriented timetables are now available in the form of call lines also as regular traffic, whereby the cycle is an offer that is usually ordered by telephone and there is no actual cycle operation.


Victor von Röll defined a rigid timetable in his 1912 Encyclopedia of Railways as follows:

“All trains here run at almost the same speed at regular intervals, which are larger or smaller depending on the requirements of the traffic. It is used on urban, suburban and similar railways that only serve passenger traffic, have no or only insignificant connections with the major long-distance traffic or, if this is the case, can provide special tracks for both types of traffic. With the usually very fast train sequence, the traveler does not need to follow the timetable. He can always find a ride. The operation takes place with great regularity and the punctuality of a clockwork. "

- Victor von Röll

In Germany the debate about a rigid timetable began as early as 1914 and during the First World War : "Since the mobilization, all passenger trains have operated according to a rigid timetable."

In his dissertation from 1980, the Swiss Roland Haudenschild sought a historical classification or the emergence of the term, based on this first official mention of a rigid timetable , as the predecessor of what is now called a regular timetable, at least for the German-speaking area.

In Germany, the Railway Regulation Act defines regular traffic as follows:

"Clocked traffic is a rail transport service that is generally carried out on the same route on the same day at least four times and at most every two hours at the same minute." (ERegG, Section 1, Paragraph 23)

This definition does not mention the regular timetable and is also not suitable for summarizing the historical development on a higher level. It also does not go into the situation in the EU, which leaves the regular timetable as a definition to its member states, which makes a comprehensive presentation difficult.

Examples of previous designations

Historically, the term interval timetable can only be proven after 1945. The discussion about a rigid timetable (one of the many predecessor terms) began as early as 1914.

Features of a cycle timetable


On the marketing side, cycle timetables have been used for a long time , especially in local trams and mountain railways , as they result in optimal turnaround times. The timetables are created by combining the trips on a common route into lines , on which the easily memorable interval timetable applies. This also applies vice versa .

The cycle time of a cycle schedule, which is made up of the travel time ( travel time plus stopping times) and the time to change direction , must correspond to an integral multiple of the cycle time. This multiple also indicates the minimum number of vehicles required for this cycle time.


With a cycle time of 40 minutes, a single-track railway line with three alternative options in the quarter points of the route allows a cycle of 40 minutes with a vehicle (a train composition). With two vehicles the result is 20 minutes (intersection in the middle of the route) and with four vehicles 10 minutes (intersection in all three passing points). The maximum line capacity is reached with four vehicles. In the case of a regular schedule with these times, however, no delays may occur, otherwise the regular schedule would no longer be maintained for the rest of the day. Any longer cycle sequence, such as 15/30 minutes here, would only reduce the capacity with the same personnel costs. This would only make sense if a connection to another line is to be made in this cycle or if reserves are regularly required for delays that occur.

Fixed timetable in public transport

In local public transport ( ÖPNV ), a different frequency is often offered in different traffic times (full load, normal load, low load and late traffic time). While the off-peak hours ensure the minimum supply in the off-peak hours, the normal load is used during the day, and trips are compressed to full load during rush hour. A constant cycle has a disadvantageous effect during rush hour when the vehicle capacity is limited. This can be remedied by intermittent rounds of operations or by increasing the space capacity of the vehicles (use of double trains, wings , bus trailers , articulated buses, etc.).

Scheduled cycle timetable

A separate timetable can be created for each individual transport line without having to consider connections to other lines. A line-based schedule is then created or, if clocking is used, a line-based cycle schedule. Dependent plans may already be required here if, for example, a connection to suburban areas with bus lines has to be continued at a tram terminus. There is then a broken connection, for which practically a single, but two-part timetable is required.

In the case of means of transport with a fixed turnaround time, such timetables are sensible for reasons of cost, even if they are not integrated into a synchronized overall network. Because this enables an even and thus more effective deployment of personnel and vehicles.

Line-based timetables are particularly useful for offers with high cycle rates. If vehicles with the same destination follow one another closely, transfer times are always very short and connections do not need to be taken into account when creating the timetable or even serviced during operation. Even at 20-minute intervals, however, it is advisable to coordinate the timetables of intersecting lines. To do this, the timing of different lines can first be shifted against each other, thus minimizing transfer times.

Even in inner-city traffic there are lines with a low frequency. Here there is the possibility of introducing other lines in a timed manner. City transports can also bring travelers to a train station or pick them up from there. If the timetable is simply adjusted to a different mode of transport, there is still no comprehensive transport system. However, if the cycle times of different modes of transport and routes are coordinated with one another in such a way that a comprehensive network or system is formed, rendezvous concepts or integral cycle timetables are created.

Rendezvous concepts

Rendezvous at the Old Market in Herford

The bundling of lines at a central transfer point (often a bus station ) and the establishment of a rendezvous concept in which all lines arrive at the same time and leave again shortly afterwards is a modern way of connecting lines. It waits for delayed vehicles. The aim is to shorten the connection times in all directions to a few minutes, often assuming a transition time of five minutes as a basis. In operation, however, this period is often extended due to vehicles arriving earlier or late, high passenger numbers (e.g. in school traffic ) or consideration for passengers with restricted mobility. Waiting times at such transfer hubs can make continuous lines less attractive .

Examples of such systems are found especially at night nets (also with road or rail vehicles , for. Example, "Nightstar traffic" in Hannover ) and modern city bus networks in medium-sized cities. Networking with short connections is limited to inner-city modes of transport, regional buses or train traffic at the station are not included or are limited to individual offers integrated into inner-city traffic (for example regional buses integrated into a city bus network). Such concepts require specially developed central transfer stations because they are served by many vehicles at the same time. Especially in narrow inner-city areas, the high space requirement can be a reason to strive for other concepts.

Integral cycle timetable (ITF)

An integral clock schedule (ITF) is a concept in which the clock schedules of individual lines are linked to a network-wide, clocked offer system via systematic coordination in node stations. With the help of suitable operating concepts, regular public transport offers achieve a higher degree of network connectivity.

The ITF does not only apply to a single line (on a certain distance = "edge") or a transfer point (= "node" ). but for the entire area (or network = nodes linked by edges). The timetable is thus clocked in total. The main feature of an integral cycle timetable is that there is more than one central transfer point; it is the extension of the rendezvous concept to as many transfer points as possible.

In an ideal ITF , the cycle timetables of lines are coordinated to form a coordinated, synchronized overall timetable, whereby lines are linked in direction and in the opposite direction in selected nodes (ITF nodes) with the aim of maximizing the number of optimal connections. If this ideal can only be achieved with restrictions under practical conditions, one speaks of an integral cycle timetable in the broader sense . For example, links from some lines to other lines at certain connection points are omitted, a different cycle is offered for individual lines or the line offer is thinned out or increased at certain operating times. An integral cycle schedule in the broader sense is used when the introduction of an ITF is accompanied by measures to increase the attractiveness of local public transport, for example improved services, modern vehicles and access points.

Mathematical conditions of an ITF

In order to be able to implement an integral cycle schedule, the travel times between two nodes must correspond to an integral multiple of half the cycle time. This means that the hourly travel time between two nodes (including half the stopping time at the two nodes) must be exactly 30, 60, 90 ... minutes.

The travel time within one mesh of an ITF network must be an integral multiple of the cycle time. A network with three nodes cannot form an ITF if each of the three travel times between the nodes is half the cycle time. In this case the starting point is reached in 1.5 clock periods. If, on the other hand, two of the travel times are half the cycle time and one travel time is the full cycle time, the starting point is reached in 2.0 cycle periods and thus the ITF node again.

Target travel times between ITF nodes

In order to meet these above-mentioned conditions in an economically favorable manner and attractively for the passenger, the aim is to purely travel times between two ITF nodes (without the stopping times in these) of just under the integral multiple of the cycle time. With an hourly service and a pure travel time of 58 minutes, there is a transfer time of 2 minutes in the two nodes. In the case of a pure travel time of 40 minutes, there is a corresponding transfer time of 20 minutes.


The SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) have adapted the travel times between the nodes through construction work so that they are half or full cycle times at half-hourly intervals. As a result, the trams cross at a node every half or full hour and there are optimal transfer connections. Most lines now run every 30 minutes. However, on single-track routes there is sometimes only a 60-60 minute cycle in the public timetable. In the operational timetables, on the other hand, a 58-62 minute cycle is sometimes implemented if some intersections can only be carried out asymmetrically.


In Germany, the introduction of a nationwide integral clock timetable is planned under the name Deutschland-Takt.

Creation of integral cycle timetables

Network with integral clock traffic with node times 00 and 30

Traffic-technical and political-economic requirements

The following questions are at the beginning of a timetable design:

  • Which line has the greatest priority?
  • Which line should have the shortest stopping time in the station?
  • Which operations must be guaranteed (political restrictions)?
  • From which starting point (train station) should the timetable be calculated?

For example, from the train from Zurich in Bern you don't need to have a connection to the counter train to Zurich. A train from Emden does not need to have a connection to a regional train to Osnabrück in Bremen , if there is a direct connection there beforehand in Oldenburg . Here, however, connections to intermediate stops z. B. Diepholz neglected (in the 2007/08 timetable the Emden – Diepholz transfer connection therefore has a waiting time of 61 minutes in Bremen - the previous connection is missed).

The stopping time of long-distance trains (ICE, EC, IC) should be as short as possible, but the transfer times between these trains must be sufficient if the transition is desired. The delays to be waited for (waiting time regulation) also have an effect on the schedule stability. Single-track sections and the resulting train crossing options have a particular impact on the timetable. This is why continuous double-track routes are much easier to clock.

Clock nodes, symmetry time and meaningful networking

ITF node using Euskirchen as an example :
Connections in all directions shortly before the half (black) and full (blue) hour
Knot system Bahn 2000 (1st stage)
yellow: full knot (00 '/ 30')
orange: full knot (15 ', 45')

In addition to making travel times easy to remember, aspects of availability include optimized connections. A characteristic of an integral clock timetable is that there are favorable transfer connections between as many crossing lines as possible at the network nodes (clock nodes).

A clock node is a train station in which it is possible to transfer to other clock trains. A distinction is made between full knots, in which trains provide corresponding connections in pairs, and half knots, where this only applies to a limited extent.

  • Full nodes are mostly large cities with a central train station ( Hauptbahnhof ), where several lines meet at the same time. The maximum cycle density is mainly determined by the minimum headway time (e.g. in block spacing ) or by the maximum number of occupied tracks. Traffic minutes and sequences are then determined from the travel times to neighboring important nodes. The transfer times must also be observed separately for each node and shortened if possible (transfer on the same platform). Full node stations in Switzerland include Bern , Zurich HB and Basel SBB . At DB Münster and earlier also in Munich .
  • Half-nodes are train stations in which only some of the trains are connected to each other. This is mostly due to reasons of travel time, based on full and other half nodes that are at different distances.

The crossing points of a single-track railway line are predetermined by the existing passing points. In the case of multi-track routes, intersections or junctions can be set up arbitrarily. By defining a node, however, all crossings (symmetry points) of a train path are defined. Changes to these points can only be made through additional waiting times or stop operations or changes in travel time (e.g. omitting stops).

Only the same symmetry times of all lines crossing at a transfer node result in the same transfer times in both directions. This is a prerequisite for a high level of acceptance of transfer connections by passengers. However, short transfer times are only possible if a transfer point is also the symmetry node of a route. However, if two important transfer hubs are too close together or too far apart, they cannot be symmetry hubs at the same time (the distance must be approx. 20 to 26 minutes driving time at hourly intervals). In this case, there are planned connection losses or long connection times, which at best can be avoided in the sense of a half-knot for the more important of the possible transfer routes. This problem applies in particular to regional public transport, where, due to low demand or low public transport shares, the intervals are usually 1–2 hours and the intersection distances are thus 30–60 minutes or around 20–50 km, while one that is adapted to the settlement structure Line network would usually have a mesh size of 5–10 km.

To improve connection times, the crossing points of the respective lines can be moved, but this is often not possible with single-track lines. Another possibility is to take into account passenger flows that differ over time. By shifting the clock at morning or afternoon rush hour, precisely certain connections can be improved at the expense of other routes. This approach requires a consideration of the respective traffic network as a system with several dependencies.

Timetable extract 2012/13
8:06 from Bremen Hbf on 9:50
9:20 on Osnabrück Hbf from 8:38
9:19 from Osnabrück Hbf on 8:39
9:55 on Münster (Westf) central station from 8:03
The trains run every hour

In practice, in Germany junctions of local transport lines are determined regionally. As an example, a railway line from Osnabrück to Bremen has its main node in Bremen, a line from Osnabrück to Münster in the Westphalian city of Münster (as part of the NRW cycle ). Since the travel times (36 and 73 minutes respectively) of these two lines do not allow a simultaneous symmetry node in Osnabrück, the RE from Bremen arrives there one minute after the scheduled departure of the regional train to Münster. This is an extreme example of a connection loss due to unfavorable travel times (infrastructure not coordinated with the ITF), but also for a lack of coordination between the timetables of different German federal states. One solution to this problem could be continuous operation.

In an integral cycle timetable, a fixed symmetry time applies globally for all lines involved. For the sake of simplicity, the theory usually assumes the minute: 00 (zero symmetry) . In practice, however, the symmetry minute is 1.5 minutes before in German-speaking countries and in some other European countries due to an international agreement. In this way, the aim is to leave the node every half or full hour. In Germany, when the hourly rate was introduced in the Intercity network in 1979, it was initially at the minute: 57, but was later changed to 58.5 on the majority of routes. Switzerland initially adopted the German "axis of symmetry" in 1982, but later changed it as well. Right from the start, the problem with cross-border train runs was that the symmetry times of neighboring countries did not always match. In particular, the Netherlands, which was the first to introduce a comprehensive regular-cycle timetable, had a symmetry minute to the quarter hours until December 2006.

The basic requirement for setting up an integral cycle timetable is a well-networked transport system. First of all, this concerns the sensible merging of short individual lines into longer regional lines from city to city or from region to region. In Germany, when RE trains were introduced, short express train lines were merged - at that time, for example, an “NRW Express” was created from Aachen to Bielefeld . As a second point, lines must not be shortened to the extent that only a feeder function to a transfer hub remains, since a pure approach or pick-up function does not require an integral timetable. Branch lines should therefore reach a transfer hub in both directions and not end bluntly on land. However, the developments in recent years are contrary to this, also in regional bus transport .

In city traffic, instead of a clock node, one speaks of an all-round connection, hunt group or central connection. Local names are, for example, Postplatztreffen on the Dresden tram , Central Bus Transfer Point ( ZUM) on the Kempten city bus or Central Transfer Point (ZUP) on the Lindau city bus .

Mathematical basics

A moving train on a line will meet the other trains on the same line at twice the frequency, e.g. For example, if there is hourly regular traffic in each direction, the trains cross the route every half hour. Corresponding possibilities exist for setting up an integral transfer hub. In reality, however, this cannot always be implemented, as there are usually too many lines to be linked. In practice, the full nodes are calculated first, whereby the long-distance trains are first given an acceptable frequency and then the local trains are aligned accordingly. (Even if one of the lines only runs every two hours, there are usually optimal connections here.) The half-nodes are then at smaller, neighboring transfer stations.

Integration of public road transport

Up to now, the main focus has been on rail transport, as the use of the infrastructure is exclusive to one mode of transport. The implementation of related timetables for tram and bus routes is much more difficult because the intensity of the individual traffic that uses the road fluctuates. Nevertheless, there are successful examples of an integral cycle timetable in regional bus traffic , e.g. B. on Rügen , and in urban areas. Nevertheless, a noticeable timetable and connections to the journeys are desirable, which cannot always be reconciled. As a remedy, especially in larger cities, acceleration measures such as bus lanes or independent tracks on trams (can also be used by buses) are used.

It is easier to bring rail passengers from inner-city local transport to a central train station (or to pick them up from the train station). Only the connection times from the train to road passenger transport need to be optimized here; So there is no integral timetable that takes into account all traffic relationships. Central stops (e.g. bus stations ) in the immediate vicinity of the train station offer good conditions for this ; the situation is more difficult in cities with an important transfer hub in the city center, with the station becoming the second transfer hub. In this case too, the timetables must be based on the arrival, departure and cycle times of regional train services (possibly also for long-distance trains).

In Switzerland, postbuses and public transport (trams, buses) also operate in regular intervals across the board , based on the principle of regular regular traffic .

Reference point of a clock schedule and reference route

Numerous public statements are silent about the time periods within which a clock timetable applies. However, time information also requires a location to be meaningful. Exact statements therefore require a high theoretical effort. In Switzerland, the regular schedule applies from the start of operations to the end of operations, although thinning is common in the peripheral hours and in peripheral areas and densification is common in peak times. In the case of evening and weekend traffic, the minutes of traffic usually correspond to those of daytime traffic during the week.

During the entire period of validity of a regular service, journeys on the same line always cross at the same places. (In the opening picture, the Euskirchen station is one such point for each line involved.) For the purpose of formal descriptions, such points are candidates for (arbitrarily chosen) reference points.


Daily valid excerpt. As of December 11, 2005. No guarantee.
The DB Intercity Express line 12 runs every two hours, nine pairs of trains on the Frankfurt (Main) <> Karlsruhe route, and meets itself at the (imaginary) reference point south of Frankfurt at the odd full hours 07 09 11 13 15 17 19 21 23.

The Berlin extension runs on the reference route Berlin <> Karlsruhe with seven pairs of trains every day and meets itself at the (imaginary) reference point south of Göttingen at the odd full hours 09 11 13 15 17 19 21.

Reinforcements by other lines as well as non-daily trips and other continuations of this line towards Basel / Interlaken do not play a role in this statement; The main thing is that the trains arrive on time on the delivery route.

Another example is the ICE line 11, whose trains run every two hours between Göttingen and Berlin with seven pairs of trains. The trains meet in Braunschweig Hauptbahnhof at minute 58. Example: 12:58 ICE 692 from Munich Hbf. To Berlin Ostbf. <> 12:58 ICE 599 from Berlin Ostbf. to Munich Hbf.

Time-path diagram

A (sufficiently rough) time-path diagram (technical jargon: picture timetable ) shows the operation of the line throughout the day (the lines are fictional; Zurich and Chur are hourly nodes, Sargans is a half-hourly node):

Time-path diagram


The reference route must be part of the route of the line; for example, every second trip or otherwise individual trips can take place beyond the usual turning points. The equality of reference route and route is the most common special case.

For the purpose of clear description, the reference point should be on the reference path, including its end points. If it lies on an end point, this describes the turn there (special case of the intersection; the turning journey meets "itself"). If the reference point is between the end points, it is assigned to an intersection taking place en route. This can be done at a stop or on an open route. In the latter case, a sufficiently close stop is used for the description with specified timetable times. This leads to formulations like “shortly before”, “shortly after” or simply “against” which are precise enough for spontaneous access.

If there are several crossing points on the line, a candidate should be selected in such a way that it can be used to describe as large a part of the cycle timetable as possible. If the regular traffic consists of the same number of trips in both directions, then there is exactly one optimal availability statement (as in the example). In many cases, on the other hand, not all trips can be recorded at the same time, so that statements have to be used.

Reference points can also be vaguely specified, for example if different travel speeds apply depending on the day or time of the week, so that the "points" are movable and, strictly speaking, route sections ( uncertainty from IT ).


A reference point is a point on the (undirected) reference route of a regular traffic in both directions of a public passenger transport line. With a suitable choice, the tuple (line, reference route, reference point, traffic days, cycle length, interval) describes in a compact way the temporal validity of the cycle timetable and thus the availability of the means of transport in a very meaningful way.

The above examples read as a 6- tuple then

line ICE 12 ICE 12
Reference route Frankfurt (Main) - Karlsruhe Berlin - Karlsruhe
Reference point south of Frankfurt (Main) Hbf south of Göttingen
Days of traffic Every day Every day
Measure length Every 2 hours Every 2 hours
interval around 07to around 23clock around 09to around 21clock

Significant timetable excerpt

Essential components of the simplification are also the omission of the representation of amplifier trips and the indication of only the (e.g. daily valid) basic cycle. In Switzerland, the information in the time from Monday to Friday between 8and 20clock relates to a timetable field or a clock node. Due to the shorter walking distances than in Germany (fewer crossings on the way) and the division of the walking routes into timetable fields, no such complex explanation is required. The statements in the advertising are also always related to the main nodes, and the compression trains that are not continuously offered during this time are left out.

Dispensing with a regular schedule

The French State Railways ( SNCF ) aligns its long-distance timetable primarily with the load directions and passenger flows . Many trains run from Paris to the regions on Friday evenings, and conversely many trains to Paris on Sunday evenings. For this purpose, some double-track lines are operated in track-changing mode, so that trains on both tracks run simultaneously in the same direction in order to increase the train density in this direction. This canalization ( French canaliser , 'to steer in a certain direction') has the disadvantage that no trains in the opposite direction are possible; In the suburbs of Paris, however, this operational disadvantage can be remedied more easily thanks to the third and fourth tracks. But France is gradually on the way to a network-wide clock timetable: at the timetable change on December 11, 2011 alone, the proportion of clock paths in the national railway network of the then operating company RFF doubled from a total of 8% to 16%. It should be noted, however, that these trains also usually run to different final destinations, because the SNCF tries to offer a daily transfer-free route for long-distance services. H. direct connection between the various regional centers.

The Italian State Railways ( FS ) have a so-called maintenance window on most routes during the day; During this time, no trains are allowed to travel on a certain section of the route to allow time for maintenance work. Nevertheless, some long-distance and regional routes are already synchronized, especially in the S-Bahn traffic of large cities and generally in northern Italy.


  • Operational disruptions can build up in a strongly synchronized timetable. This can be counteracted by suitable precautions such as the provision of dispatch trains .
  • After the nationwide power outage on June 22, 2005, the question was raised in Switzerland whether the regular schedule, which is run with customary precision, would not lead to periodic modulations of electricity consumption and generation (by braking or downhill trains) that no longer stochastically equalize each other and therefore require increased power reserves. However, this theory was later refuted.


  • Gisela Hürlimann: The railway of the future. Automation, express traffic, modernization at SBB 1955 to 2005 . Chronos, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-0340-0856-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Victor Freiherr von Röll : Timetable . In: Encyclopedia of Railways. Volume 5, Berlin / Vienna 1914, pp. 1-19.
  2. ^ Günter König: The electrical operation on the Albtalbahn in narrow gauge. In: The Museum Railway. Issue 3, 1992, p. 24.
  3. RSV - Ruhrschnellverkehr on, accessed on November 14, 2018
  4. 25 years of the Stuttgart S-Bahn on, accessed on November 14, 2018
  5. ^ SBB timetable commission, report on the timetable and operation of the NS (study trip 1953), p. 35. Quoted from Gisela Hürlimann: The railway of the future. No. 3, 2006, p. 178.
  6. Gisela Hürlimann: The railway of the future. No. 3, 2006, p. 179.
  7. a b Ministère de l'écologie, du développement durable, des transports et du logement: Assises du ferroviaire (dossier de presse), Paris 15.09.2011, p. 13f. (French). (PDF) (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on February 3, 2015 ; Retrieved November 18, 2015 .
  8. Gisela Hürlimann: The railway of the future. No. 3, 2006, pp. 179f.
  9. Olivia Ebinger: Bahn 1940 - Visions in England. In: Swisst raffic. BAV, Bern, March 2009, p. 20f.
  10. ^ John Frederick Pownall: New Railway Network Principles - a project for applying them to British Railways . 1940.
  11. ^ August Roesener: The rhythmic timetable: A contribution to the reconstruction of German rail traffic . Ed .: Gerhard Schulz-Wittuhn (=  Der Verkehr . Volume 6 ). Erich Schmidt Verlag, Bielefeld February 1949.
  12. ^ Roland Haudenschild: Timetables and the timetable project of the Swiss Federal Railways . Dissertation, University of Bern. Paul Haupt, Bern 1981, ISBN 3-258-03050-2 , p. 29.
  13. clocked. ( Memento from March 6, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  14. The RBS in the last 100 years on, accessed on November 12, 2018
  15. a b c d e f Research Society for Roads and Transport (ed.): Leaflet on the integral cycle timetable . Definition, boundary conditions, possible uses and limits of use in long-distance, regional and local transport. Cologne 2001, p. 5, 6, 21 .
  16. Bernd F. Hoffmann: City-Bahn: Beer, Bockwurst and the mountain. In: Kölnische Rundschau. August 25, 2010 ( , accessed November 13, 2018)
  17. Andreas Schulz: The "Allgäu-Schwaben-Takt" . In: Deutsche Bahn . tape 69 , no. 5 , 1993, p. 363-370 .
  18. Georg Speck: The integral cycle timetable - Is more local transport possible for less money? In: Local transport . Issue 9. Düsseldorf 1996, p. 33-38 .
  19. ^ Deutsche Bahn AG, local traffic division (ed.): The manual for the new local traffic . S. 20th f . (probably 1995).
  20. ^ Gabriele Pellandini: Timetable in Finland. In: Eisenbahn-Revue International . Issue 7, 2002, p. 348 f.
  21. Local history museum - commuters. On: Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  22. ^ Alfred Horn: ÖBB Handbuch 1983. Bohmann, Vienna 1983, p. 46
  23. a b Christa Schlager: Austria is on the way to the integral cycle timetable on, accessed on June 18, 2020
  24. Construction of the railway on, accessed on June 17, 2020
  25. On the structure and history of the “NAT'91” project (1990–2010) at, accessed on November 15, 2018
  26. Historical milestones on, accessed on June 18, 2020
  27. Operating system. In: Viktor von Röll (ed.): Encyclopedia of the Railway System . 2nd Edition. Volume 2: Building Design - Brazil . Urban & Schwarzenberg, Berlin / Vienna 1912, p.  341 ff.
  28. Gustav Schimpff: How should passenger train traffic be designed after the war? In: ZDEV. Vol. 92, from November 25, 1914, pp. 1265-1269 and ZDEV. Vol. 93, from November 28, 1914, pp. 1277-1280. Quoted from: Roland Haudenschild: Timetables and the timetable project of the Swiss Federal Railways. Dissertation. Paul Haupt, Bern 1981, ISBN 3-258-03050-2 , p. 16.
  29. ^ Roland Haudenschild: Timetables and the timetable project of the Swiss Federal Railways. Dissertation. Paul Haupt, Bern 1981, ISBN 3-258-03050-2 .
  30. ^ Roland Haudenschild: Timetables and the timetable project of the Swiss Federal Railways. Dissertation. Paul Haupt, Bern 1981, ISBN 3-258-03050-2 , p. 16 with historical evidence.
  31. Rudolf Göbertshahn: The Integral regular timetable . In: Deutsche Bahn . tape 69 , no. 5 , 1993, p. 357-362 .
  32. ^ Jörn Pachl: System technology of rail traffic . 7th edition. Springer, chapter 7.2.
  36. Study Bahn21 . Verkehrsclub Deutschland , April 2004, p. 20–21 ( [PDF; accessed on November 9, 2018]).
  37. blackout SBB June 22, 2005. (Not available online.) In: Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies . Archived from the original ; Retrieved January 8, 2012 .