Lufthansa Airport Express (LHA) 1982 – 1993
by Dietrich Eggert and Ralf Drews
Almost forgotten is a connection between Lufthansa and former Deutsche Bundesbahn (now Deutsche Bahn) lasting for almost eleven years
In 1981 Lufthansa wanted to replace the expensive Frankfurt – Düsseldorf flights by train, so Deutsche Bundesbahn offered the unloved and vacant ET403 highspeed trainsets. Initally ordered and build for the new one-class Intercity system to be set up from 1970 on, the Class 403 electric multiple units served with Bundesbahn from 1974 on until 1979. With the introduction of the two-class Intercity system in 1979, the unsuccesful train was withdrawn from service.
When both carriers agreed, the Lufthansa Airport Express (LHA) was born and after conversions and trials, on March 27 1982 the first of four daily Lufthansa Airport Express shuttles started.
All of the trainsets were painted in Lufthansa colors yellow and grey, but were owned and operated by Deutsche Bundesbahn. The shuttle started in Düsseldorf (or Frankfurt) and for little more than two hours it followed the West Rhine railway via Cologne, Bonn, Koblenz, the Rhine valley along to Bingen and Frankfurt Airport- a distance of nearly 250km. The coaches were fitted with the same business-class seats as the DC-10 and the passengers on board were served by Lufthansa cabin crew. LHA proved succesful, tourists loved that kind of travelling and Lufthansa could reduce the short-haul flights. By 1988 the capacity of the ET403 was enlarged and from 1989 on a second LHA-route between Frankfurt and Stuttgart was inaugurated.
After the financial troubles Lufthansa had in 1992, when the carrier had to sold some of its ageing aircraft, the future for te succesful LHA was not bad – but the age of ET403 and the high-cost of overhauling the three trainsets for a the next decade brought Lufthansa Airport Express service to end.
On 22 May 1993 the LHA service ended.
All of the trainsets were removed from service and stored on various locations in Germany. After some 18 years of storage in 2011 a group of ET403 – enthusiasts started to recover the former LHA train for a new future with NXRail.