Bonn Ilona Schmitz from Lengsdorf needs significantly more time to get to work due to construction work on the train line. Thousands in the region are also affected. But there is an alternative.
Ilona Schmitz's commute to work is precisely timed: In the morning, she gets on the bus in Lengsdorf at 7.26 am, then catches the RE train at the railway station and travels comfortably through to Düsseldorf. She finally reaches her destination in just under an hour and a half. But for a few days now, she has had to be extremely patient. "I need at least one hour extra. For the outward journey as well as the return," she complains. This is due to the current line closure between Bonn and Cologne. Deutsche Bahn is having the overhead lines replaced in this section and the commuters are dependent on replacement services. The restrictions are to remain in place until 15 August. But a railway spokesman says, “the work is on schedule. We assume that we will be finished on time."
Even Ilona Schmitz does not doubt that the train lines from the 1950s need to be renewed. "But I would have liked the railway to look after its regular customers and offer alternatives," she says with annoyance. After all, she pays 256 euros a month for her ticket. "Even when I was working at home for weeks on end due to the corona restrictions and did not actually need the ticket, I did not cancel it. For me, it is a sign of solidarity and I want to play my part in ensuring that such offers continue," she says.
Now the situation is all the more annoying for her. She has to change trains several times (in Bonn, Sechtem and Cologne) to finally reach Düsseldorf. And if only one train is late, she has to stand on the platform and wait. "And that's what always happens," she says angrily. "Maybe they could have informed the ticket holders about the problems in advance so that we could look for alternatives," she says, "I only found out about it on Monday on the bus.” There could have been a quicker way to get to work. "Why aren't we as ticket holders being offered the opportunity to travel via Beuel on the IC?" she asks and has contacted DB Regio. "But that was rejected," she reacts in disappointment.
"We regret the inconvenience caused to passengers", explains Benjamin Jeschor from the Rhein-Sieg Traffic Association (Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Sieg, VRS). "However, the construction work carried out by DB Netz in our region is absolutely necessary to improve the poor condition of the completely overloaded rail infrastructure. In the case in question, this involves a complete closure between Bonn and Cologne. The construction phase was deliberately chosen for the summer holiday period when experience has shown that fewer passengers travel". However, a so-called “generelle Entschädigung” (general compensation) is not planned because "the route between Bonn and Cologne is still accessible: there are rail replacement services on the left side of the Rhine, and the RB 27 and the RE 8 are running from Beuel on the right side of the Rhine.”
Transferring to a faster IC connection is not possible. Jeschor explains: "As a local transport association (Nahverkehrsverband, NVR), we have no way of forcing DB Fernverkehr (responsible for long-distance rail transport) to give local train travellers free journeys. In the past, DB Fernverkehr has already received such requests from the NVR. In most cases, however, no general agreement was reached. In very rare cases, DB Fernverkehr has agreed to look spontaneously at the long-distance trains to see whether there is enough space to accommodate some local transport passengers," he adds.
"We would appreciate it if the passengers concerned were offered quick and simple solutions for the duration of the line closure," says Hans-Werner Ignatowitz of the Pro Bahn passenger association. In the past, the association has repeatedly attempted to enable passengers to transfer to DB long-distance services for the duration of the disruption. "But this has barely worked so far. In other regions, it is easier," explains Ignatowitz.
The VRS declaration does not apply to Ilona Schmitz. "I bought my monthly ticket at the DB counter. If there's a problem, isn't the railway responsible? Especially as she has observed very few commuters making use of such a concession. "Hardly anyone is using the replacement bus service to Sechtem. They could have saved themselves the trouble," she says.
(Original text: Gabriele Immenkeppel, Translation: Caroline Kusch)