Train delays and strikes in Germany. What can you do

Last Updated on September 24, 2023

German trains are no longer punctual. If you type “train delays” in Google, then first of all Google adds Germany. Train cancellations, delays and strikes have become a weekly routine. What are your rights, what is the compensation for a train delays in Germany and how can you get it?
The rules change from June 7, 2023.

Germany ticket for regional public transport Deutschland-Ticket
Part 1: Trains in Germany
Part 2: Local public transport in Germany
Public transport around Lake Constance
Welcome cards and public transport in Dresden and surroundings
Germany by car
Cycle rules in Germany

How many times this year I had to swear when I once again saw the inscription “Zug fällt aus. Danke für Ihr Verständnis” on the scoreboard! And why do they thank me for understanding, which I do not have at all?

Of course, you can write angry letters, but the result is unlikely to be significant. But you still write, because if the criticism is reasonable, they still take it into account, albeit not immediately, but after six months. I’ve been heard twice already.

But it will be very nice to get back part of the ticket price as a small moral compensation or transfer to a taxi at the expense of a local transport organisation. The main thing is to know the rules.

For all problems with train delays and cancellations, the following rule applies:
if you booked everything at once, the company who sold you this single ticket is responsible for the entire segment
if you booked in parts – you will not receive anything for the missing ticket in the second segment.

Hence the conclusion: if you have a difficult route and difficult connections – buy a single ticket (including for a train and plane, some kind of Fly and Ride), if you cannot buy a single ticket – play it safe.

I wrote more about how to reduce the risk of being late with Deutsche Bahn in the topic Trains in Germany

What are your rights for train delays and cancelations

You have the right:
arrive late and claim compensation (see below),
return the ticket and get a refund,
return halfway home free of charge and claim reimbursement for unclaimed route.

Other rights are listed below.

Sometimes the railway offers Kulanzregelung: an unused ticket can be valid for other dates and trains on the route. However, this is not a mandatory rule, so if you just want to change your travel date, check if you can keep the ticket.

Train strikes in Germany

Strikes are not a reason why a railway can refuse compensation. Here we mean non-local transport (not S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses) – most often nothing is returned for local transport or returned according to special rules – see below.

Don’t forget to check strike information 2-3 days before your trip. Strikes are announced in advance, and 3 days before the strike, it is already known. The usual period is 6 days, but it can be shortened sometimes. For example, the mid-May mega-strike, which fortunately did not take place, was announced from Thursday to Sunday evening.

If the strike is partial, you need to check the websites of those companies whose trains run on your route. Usually they write which trains are running and which are cancelled. Deutsche Bahn does not always promptly post information about which trains are running. It happens that, according to its live schedule, trains arrive and go perfectly, while in reality they have been standing somewhere in a hopeless traffic jam for an hour.

Other reasons for train delays. Changes for 2023

Before, reasons didn’t matter. As of June 7, 2023, however, this is changing.

Now the railway may not compensate for train delays if they were the result of special circumstances beyond the control of the company:

  • bad weather
  • behavior of third parties (suicide, stolen cables, etc.)
  • natural disasters

The rest of the rights, except for compensation, remain in place:
organizing the delivery of the passenger by other transport means
and providing food when waiting for more than an hour,
accommodation for the night if further travel is impossible.

Since the rules are new and there are no court decisions on them, train travelers will lose their rights in the next couple of years. Unlike airplanes, where the system of collecting compensations has already been worked out and there is a group collection of claims, this has not yet been organized for railways.

Rebooking due to delay or cancellation

There is still a small positive change: the traveler can rebook a further trip to another rail or bus company, at the expense of the one that sold the ticket.
you must obtain consent from the railway
or you were not informed by the railway of alternative ways to travel onward within 100 minutes of your scheduled departure time or missed connection.

Bonus in Germany (this is not a European rule). If it is expected that the delay at the end station of the route will be more than 20 minutes, you can use another similar train, even if trains are fixed on your ticket. If you have to increase the level of the train (change from local to high-speed), then you need to buy a new ticket. The difference in value can be included in a claim for compensation.

Last train – taxi and overnight stay

If your arrival is scheduled between 00.00 and 05.00 hours and the train is more than 60 minutes late
or the last train to your destination is canceled
or you are unable to get to your station before midnight due to a late train

– you should contact the DB service (cash desk, conductor, information service at the station). Usually DB organizes taxis on its own, so this method is preferable. If it was not possible to contact, you can take a taxi yourself and set the cost to the DB (up to 80 euros compensation).

Alternatively, the DB can also provide the hotel. Or you yourself can book the night in a hotel (if you could not contact the DB and if it is cheaper than a taxi).

International trains

If an international train is late, compensation from DB can only be received if you bought a ticket from DB. If the ticket was bought abroad, then the claims must be sent there.

Compensation for a train delays in Germany

You must apply for compensation no later than 3 months from the date of the trip (the period has been reduced).

Your request may include (depending on the circumstances):
– train delays compensation
– or refund
– the cost of meals if you were not fed while waiting for more than an hour
– the cost of a taxi (if you took it in accordance with the rules)
– the cost of the hotel (if you booked it in accordance with the rules)
– the cost of rebooking an onward trip

The amount of compensation depends on the time of delay

From the 60th minute of being late to the final station of their route, passengers receive compensation of 25 percent of the paid one-way fare.
If a round-trip ticket was purchased, then the total cost is divided by two and 25 percent is calculated from half.

From the 120th minute of being late, the compensation is 50 percent.

The rule also applies to complex routes with several trains (Reisekette, trains from S-Bahn to ICE, as well as DB buses). The main thing is the time of arrival at the final station of this route and a single ticket for the entire route. But it does not apply to delays in public transport: metro, trams and buses.

You can compensate for the costs of the route purchased as a single ticket If you bought tickets separately, then no one will compensate you for the second part. This also applies to missed flights.

Compensation amounts less than 4 euros will not be paid. But you can sum up compensation for several delays. So, you can sum up small compensations for delays on day tickets (Länder-Tickets, Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket): 1.50 Euro (2. Klasse), 2.25 Euro (1. class)

Receiving compensation

1. Take Fahrgastrechte-Formular

It is given by conductors, at the box office and information points of the DB. You can also print from the Internet (link) and carry with you just in case. If you bought your ticket online, you can now apply for compensation online as well.

2. Confirm train delays

Contact for the form to be stamped:
to the conductor (he stamps only if this particular train is more than 60 minutes late)
or to the DB service centers at the station (they will also note a slight delay that caused a chain reaction).

If it was not possible to catch the conductor, the service centers were already closed, then the papers can be sent to Frankfurt at the address indicated in the form and they will figure out if there was a delay.

As evidence, it is recommended to take pictures of signs on the platforms.

3. Fill out the form

To do this, you need to know the train numbers and the arrival time according to the schedule and the real one.

train delays compensation in Germany

4. Send the form, ticket and checks

at the address indicated in the form or take them to the service center at the station.

5. Money can be received in cash / transfer or in the form of a coupon (Gutschein).

Local transport companies

Many local transport companies, especially smaller ones, only mention the general rules of the compensation for rail transport. Others make special refund rules, more often only for abo holders. Look for Garantie, Mobilitätsgarantie.

A case in point is our Heilbron network (HNV).

Holders of monthly and annual tickets can use a taxi and then reimburse its cost if, due to a delay or cancellation of the train, they arrive at their end station 30 minutes later than the schedule and there are no opportunities to use other transport.

Compensation will not be paid if the delay was caused by force majeure situations: bad weather, bomb detection, strike, suicide, interference from third parties and so on, or if the delays/cancellations were known in advance. That is, in fact, the company itself should be to blame: something broke or problems with the staff. Unfortunately, you rarely find out in time what happened to them there.

Compensation is paid in the amount of up to 35 euros within two weeks after the trip with a receipt from the taxi.

Heilbronn also has such a unique mode of transport, which operates both as trams and trains. This network is operated by the Karlsruhe transport system.

Searching the site of this system, you can find such information. Inside the city, the rules will apply as for the tram, and outside – as for the train. Thus, if you go from Heilbronn / Pforzheim / Brucksal / … and then transfer to a high-speed train, then the delays of these intercity trams will be counted according to the general rules indicated above (from 60 minutes – 25 percent, from 120 minutes – 50 percent) .

And in Munich, for example, you need to look separately for transport companies, and not on the MVV website, which unites them all. You will not find anything on this site, but on the MVG site there is information about Mobilitätsgarantie (Link).

Reimbursement is made within a limited period (10-14 days after the trip) using Mobilitätsgarantie Formular.

Germany ticket for regional public transport Deutschland-Ticket
Part 1: Trains in Germany
Part 2: Local public transport in Germany
Germany by car
Cycle rules in Germany

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