If your train is not on time in Germany, you are entitled to compensation for train delays. Find out more below.
As a train traveler, however, you don’t just have to accept every delay, not even in the event of a strike. You are therefore entitled to compensation for train delays.
If you are traveling by train, you should always plan more time. The old phrase “on time like the train” has long ceased to apply. Because almost every fourth long-distance train of Deutsche Bahn (DB) was delayed in 2019. The official Deutsche Bahn figures do not even include trains that fail completely or are less than six minutes late.
- Train delay has been announced: what can you do?
- What applies to a rail strike?
- How much compensation for train delays are you entitled to?
- There is also compensation in the event of a strike
- Do you have to have the delay confirmed?
- How do you get your refund?
- How long can you assert your claims?
- What do you do if you’re stranded somewhere because you are late?
- Do you also get compensation with season tickets?
- Is there also compensation in other EU countries?
- Where can you complain about the train?
Train delay has been announced: what can you do?
Only when your train is 20 minutes late or canceled do you as a passenger have alternative options: You can take another train and use a more expensive connection at no extra charge – the so-called train connection is then lifted. However, you have to pay the fare or the surcharge first, the reimbursement will be made afterwards.
An example: The regional express that you wanted to take should arrive at your destination 30 minutes late. If there is an Intercity (IC) on the same route, you can use it. To do this, you have to buy the IC ticket first. The train you are changing to must be free of reservation – but these are all Deutsche Bahn trains within Germany anyway.
Note: If you already have a heavily discounted ticket, such as a national ticket, you cannot use the reimbursement rule.
If you have announced a delay of 60 minutes or more, you can return your ticket free of charge, even if it is, for example, a “super saver price” ticket that is normally not exchangeable. This is useful if you have missed an important appointment due to the delay and your reason for travel no longer applies. However, when you return the ticket, you no longer have any claims against the railway company.
If you only find out about the delay on the way, you can cancel your trip and return to your departure station with the next train connection. In this case, too, the costs are borne by the railway.
In addition to the compensation, you are entitled to adequate and free food and beverages, provided they are available in the train station or train, in the event of an announced delay of more than an hour.
What applies to a rail strike?
If your train is delayed by more than 20 minutes because of a strike by railway employees or if it is canceled completely, you can also take any other train. The train connection is then no longer valid.
But even in this case you have to pay the surcharge first and then have it reimbursed if you use a more expensive connection than planned. In addition, as in other cases, you are also entitled to compensation.
If you no longer want to take the trip because of the train strike, you can have the ticket costs reimbursed.
How much compensation for train delays are you entitled to?
The EU Rail Passenger Rights Regulation (EC 1371/2007) regulates what compensation Deutsche Bahn and other rail providers in the European Union have to pay. Basically: Money back is only given if you are one hour late at your destination. Then 25 percent of the fare for this route is due. If you arrive 120 minutes late, the compensation is 50 percent.
The compensation is also due if the delay is caused by several trains used one after the other – for example, if your first train is delayed on a transfer connection and you miss the connecting train that only runs once an hour. It is important that you have bought the journey as a continuous connection, the railway speaks of a travel chain.
An example: You take the ICE from Munich to Düsseldorf. If you only buy a ticket from the local transport association there to continue to Dortmund, it is not a continuous connection. The travel chain is broken, the compensation rule then applies per ticket.
There is also compensation in the event of a strike
Incidentally, unlike airlines, Deutsche Bahn also has to pay for delays due to extraordinary circumstances or force majeure, for example in the event of a strike by its staff, due to storm damage to the overhead lines or due to a suicide on the tracks. This has been decided by the European Court of Justice (judgment of 23 September 2013, Az. C-509/11). However, railway companies are not liable for consequential damage, for example if you missed your flight due to a delayed train.
From 2023, however, a new version of the European Passenger Rights Regulation is to come into force. Then railway companies should no longer have to pay compensation if extraordinary circumstances such as storms are the reason for the delay or train cancellation.
Do you have to have the delay confirmed?
Delays usually mean stress for the passenger. Getting a written confirmation of the train cancellation or the delay from the train attendant or the station information is sometimes difficult or not possible. However, it is not required for reimbursement: Deutsche Bahn archives the departure and arrival times of its trains.
In order to be on the safe side in case of doubt, you should still try to get a confirmation of your delay from the conductor or the station information. This can be done at the information desk in the train station for up to five days after the trip.
How do you get your refund?
The most convenient way to get reimbursement is the new online reimbursement service introduced by Deutsche Bahn in early June 2021. To do this, however, you must have bought your ticket via the Bahn website or the Bahn app. If this is the case, log in to your customer account and then click on “Show all bookings” or “My tickets”. Then select the option “Passenger rights” in the other menus and order the reimbursement there. According to Deutsche Bahn, you should receive a response within two weeks.
As before, you can also request your reimbursement in the same way. For this you can use the form of the service center passenger rights, which Deutsche Bahn operates together with other railway companies. You can get it either from the train attendant, in a DB travel center or online. You can hand in the completed form together with your receipts (usually the original ticket and your confirmation of delay) at a DB travel center. If you don’t feel like standing in line, you can also send your receipts by post to the following address: DB Dialog, Servicecenter Fahrgastrechte, 60647 Frankfurt am Main. You cannot yet submit the form online.
The form in PDF format can also be saved on your own computer, so you don’t have to re-enter all the data the next time you are late. The reimbursement also works via an informal letter; this must then contain contact and account data and information about the trip and also the ticket as an attachment.
This list shows you which companies, apart from DB, you can contact via the Passenger Rights Service Center. You have to contact other railway companies directly, for example Abellio, which runs trains in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, among others.
Amounts of 4 euros or more are paid out everywhere. So, if necessary collect delays to get over this sum. You can read more about this below in the section Time cards.
How long can you assert your claims?
If your train was delayed or your train canceled, you have one year to assert your claims. This is what the European passenger rights regulation for rail traffic 1371/2007 provides.
What do you do if you’re stranded somewhere because you are late?
You can change to a taxi or other means of transport in the following cases :
- According to the timetable, your train should arrive at your destination station between midnight and 5 a.m. and is delayed by over an hour.
- Your train is canceled completely and is the last connection of the day . You can no longer reach your destination station until midnight.
If the train cannot provide you with an alternative means of transport, for example a bus, you will be reimbursed for the cost of taxi and Co. in the amount of up to 80 euros.
In extreme cases, you are entitled to an overnight stay in a hotel including arrival and departure. If your trip breaks off at a larger train station, be sure to contact the railway, for example at the information desk. You can only organize your overnight stay if you are not assigned a hotel there or if you cannot find a contact person at the train station.
You can then have the costs reimbursed in the same way as the compensation in the event of a delay. Make sure to include receipts for your hotel or taxi expenses and keep copies of them.
Do you also get compensation with season tickets?
Different regulations apply to season tickets than to individually purchased train tickets. In principle, you will not be reimbursed more than 25 percent of the ticket value for them. Since the railway does not pay amounts of less than 4 euros, you have to present at least two delays in the first class or three in the second class.
With weekly and monthly tickets for local transport, you have to list the delays and submit them at the end of their validity. The compensation procedures in regional transport associations may be different again. You can usually find information about this on their websites.
Is there also compensation in other EU countries?
The regulations listed apply to all railway companies in the European Union. You have the same entitlements in Germany and in other European countries. The reason for this is the European passenger rights regulation for rail traffic 1371/2007, which all EU member states have to implement.
The railway service providers can also voluntarily pay higher compensation. That is what Thalys does, for example, which connects North Rhine-Westphalia with Brussels and Paris. In the case of delays for which the company is responsible, there is a refund of 20 percent from 30 minutes, half an hour from an hour and the full fare from two hours – but only as a voucher or in miles. Anyone who insists on a payout must be satisfied with the compensation under the Railway Passenger Rights Ordinance described above.
If you have bought an international ticket from Deutsche Bahn (DB), you can use the Passenger Rights Service Center to receive compensation. You have to contact other companies directly.
On long journeys, be particularly careful not to interrupt the travel chain. It therefore makes sense, for example, to buy a trip from Cologne to London entirely from Deutsche Bahn instead of taking a train ticket to Brussels and getting a Eurostar ticket to London there. Delays then only apply per ticket and twice 30 minutes do not give rise to any claim for compensation.
Where can you complain about the train?
If there are problems processing compensation or if you have a complaint about train cancellations or delays, you should contact the Passenger Rights Service Center – a second time if necessary. If no solution can be found, the arbitration board for public transport (Soep) is the next point of contact. The contact details for Soep are: Fasanenstrasse 81, 10623 Berlin, Phone 030/64 49 93 30.
The highest authority for complaints about Deutsche Bahn or other rail providers is the Federal Railway Authority. The postal address is: Heinemannstrasse 6, 53175 Bonn.
If you have problems with a railway company in another European country, you can contact the European Consumer Center. The advice there is free of charge for you.
If you don’t want to deal with Deutsche Bahn yourself, you can hire a legal service provider such as Bahn-Buddy or Refundrebel. This saves you the paperwork and usually gets your money transferred to your account faster. However, the portals keep part of the compensation as commission.
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