Berlin Rail travelers need strong nerves now: The train drivers' union is on strike - for two days. Which trains are still running? And is there any money back for tickets already purchased? Questions and answers.
Now there is certainty: The German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) is calling its members to strike. Since Wednesday morning, 2:00 a.m., work has been suspended for 48 hours in passenger traffic. Rail travelers are threatened with delays and train cancellations.
In view of the strike, Deutsche Bahn passengers should find out in good time whether their desired connection is available. If not, they should quickly look for another means of transport. Important questions and answers:
When will the strike end?
The GDL already called on its members to strike at Deutsche Bahn on Tuesday. In passenger traffic, the industrial action is to last until 2:00 a.m. on Friday.
The strike is directed only against Deutsche Bahn, says GDL press spokeswoman Gerda Seibert. Other railroad companies are not affected. Nevertheless, according to the Schlichtungsstelle für den öffentlichen Personennahverkehr (söp), there may also be disruptions at Deutsche Bahn's competitors, for example if stalled trains block the tracks.
What does this mean for rail traffic?
Train cancellations are unavoidable. According to Deutsche Bahn, the nationwide long-distance service will be reduced to around a quarter. According to the company, priority will be given to particularly high-demand connections, for example between Berlin and the Rhine/Ruhr region, between Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main, as well as connections to important stations and airports. On selected main axes, trains with the largest possible seating capacity are to run at least every two hours.
There will also be restrictions on regional and commuter rail services. According to Deutsche Bahn, the aim is to maintain a basic service for schoolchildren and commuters in metropolitan regions and rural areas, as well as important feeder services to long-distance trains or airports.
Is there an emergency timetable?
The replacement timetable is available to Deutsche Bahn passengers online in the timetable information and in the DB Navigator app.
Where do travelers find out if their train is cancelled or delayed?
Deutsche Bahn is gradually feeding information about this into the timetable information and the app. The company also plans to deploy hundreds of additional employees to inform travelers at stations. A strike hotline is also available to passengers on 08000-996633.
How will those affected get their ticket money back?
Deutsche Bahn is being accommodating during the strike: Long-distance tickets already booked for the strike period will remain valid until August 20 and can be used flexibly. The train commitment for economy fares no longer applies. In addition, trains other than those indicated on the ticket can be used for the onward journey. This also applies to local trains.
Anyone who does not wish to travel at a later date can have their ticket refunded free of charge by filling out a goodwill form on the DB website or at DB sales outlets.
In principle, however, the passenger rights of the EU Passenger Regulation also apply during the labor dispute, explains Beatrix Kaschel from the Local Transport Conciliation Board in Düsseldorf. This means that even in the event of delays, the railroad must refund at least part of the fare.
The amount of compensation is based on the length of the delay. "If passengers arrive at least 60 minutes later than planned, they are entitled to a 25 percent refund, and if they arrive more than 120 minutes later, they are entitled to a 50 percent refund," says the expert. These claims can be made online, on the train, or at a DB office using the passenger rights form.
How can passengers prove connection problems?
The Consumer Advice Center of North Rhine-Westphalia advises collecting evidence of delays or train cancellations. Ideally, travelers should have the disruption certified by DB employees at the station.
Alternatively, those affected can take photos of display boards or screenshots of information in the DB app or on the railroad company's website showing the delay or cancellation of the train.
What alternatives to the train do travelers have?
Continue by cab: "In local transport, Deutsche Bahn has already organized cab rides from larger stations in the past and handed out corresponding vouchers," says conciliator Beatrix Kaschel. "If travelers look for a cab on their own, however, there are restrictions - not every cab bill must be subsequently covered by the company. Only if the planned arrival at the destination is between 00:00 and 05:00 at night and travelers would arrive at least 60 minutes later by train, the railroad company must reimburse the cost of a cab ride up to a maximum of 80 euros. The same applies if the last scheduled train of the day is cancelled and travelers do not reach their destination by midnight in any other way.“
Continue on long-distance trains: "If it becomes apparent that passengers will not reach their destination on local trains until more than 20 minutes late, they can travel on a long-distance train at no extra charge," says Kaschel. However, before passengers board the long-distance train, they must buy a valid ticket. "They can later have the additional expense incurred reimbursed by the rail company. However, this right only exists if the original route is not more than 50 kilometers long or does not take more than one hour. This rule also does not apply in the case of a significantly reduced ticket, for example, a Länder ticket or semester ticket.“
Traveling on with your own car: Costs for travel by private car are not reimbursed by the railroad.
Switching to rental cars, long-distance buses or planes: Travelers who have not yet booked a Deutsche Bahn ticket can use other means of transport. For example, Flixbus, Eurowings and the Federal Association of Car Rental Companies in Germany are currently noticing an increase in demand, according to their own statements. This tends to mean that capacities are becoming scarcer and prices are rising.
What applies to commuters?
In principle, employees must exhaust all possibilities to be at work on time, even during a strike. So if problems in passenger transport are foreseeable, employees cannot rely on the railroads, but must look for alternatives. In the event of a delay, employees should inform their employer in good time. In the worst case, they could otherwise be issued with a warning.
(Original text: Christoph Jänsch, dpa, Translation: Mareike Graepel)