Service: Delays and train cancellations: What rights passengers have in the event of a rail strike

The outlook for commuters is bleak: the GDL union has announced that it will go on strike from Thursday evening.

Service: Delays and train cancellations: What rights passengers have in the event of a rail strike

The outlook for commuters is bleak: the GDL union has announced that it will go on strike from Thursday evening. The warning strike is not expected to end until Friday night. Train travelers then have to have a lot of patience. In the event of a strike, numerous connections are canceled and many passengers wait for the few trains that are still running. People line up in long queues in front of the travel centers or travelers even get stranded at the train stations.

We will give you an overview of what rail passengers can do on strike days and when they are entitled to compensation.

Deutsche Bahn writes on its website that it always tries to set up a replacement timetable in the event of strikes. Long-distance travelers should find out whether their train is running or not 12 hours before departure. You can do this online at travel information or in the DB Navigator app. Deutsche Bahn provides information about current traffic reports and strikes at bahn.de/aktuell. The railway is usually accommodating in the event of a strike and travelers can change their travel times if they want.

If you are not traveling with Deutsche Bahn trains but are traveling with a private railway company, you should first go to the company's website to get information in the event of a strike, the consumer advice center advises.

In the past, Deutsche Bahn has sometimes organized taxi rides for local transport passengers at larger local train stations. If you want to use a taxi on your own, you must meet certain requirements in order for a train company to cover the costs. This is regulated by the EU passenger regulations.

The train company must therefore reimburse passengers for the cost of a taxi ride up to a maximum of 120 euros if your planned arrival at your destination is between midnight and 5 a.m. And the destination would be reached by train at least 60 minutes later. The same applies if the last scheduled train of the day is canceled and the destination cannot be reached otherwise by midnight.

In the event of a strike, the railway sometimes releases long-distance transport for travelers with a ticket for local transport. This means: With such approval, travelers can also use an IC or ICE with their ticket for local transport. Railway companies can also organize shared buses as replacements. Travelers can find current information in the event of a strike at bahn.de/aktuell.

If a train is severely delayed or canceled completely, rail passengers have the right to compensation. This is also regulated by the EU Passenger Regulation.

If travelers arrive at their destination one hour late, they will receive a refund of 25 percent of the fare; if they are more than 120 minutes late, a refund of 50 percent of the fare will be due.

Delays always refer to the arrival time at the destination. This means: If, for example, travelers who are traveling from Hamburg to Giessen with a change in Kassel miss their connection due to a 15-minute delay in changing trains and therefore arrive at the destination station an hour late, they are also entitled to compensation.

However: According to the new EU Passenger Rights Regulation, rail companies no longer have to pay compensation since June 2023 if the delay is due to certain “extraordinary circumstances” for which the railway is not responsible. This includes, among other things, natural disasters or delays caused by third parties - such as people on the tracks. In the event of rail strikes, compensation must continue to be paid.

If there is a delay of 20 minutes at the destination station, rail passengers can take another train. This can also be a higher quality train – if it does not require reservations. However, passengers must first pay the additional ticket or the surcharge for long-distance transport themselves. And then claim the higher costs back from the railway. Attention: This rule does not apply to “significantly discounted” tickets, such as country tickets or a beautiful weekend ticket. According to the Railway Traffic Regulations (§3 Paragraph 4 EVO), the Germany Ticket also falls under the heavily discounted tickets.

Even with a season ticket, such as a monthly ticket, travelers can get money back if they are delayed by at least 60 minutes. "For season tickets on local transport, the delays must be written down and submitted to the service center for passenger rights at the end of the month. Passengers for season tickets on local transport receive: 1.50 euros (2nd class), 2.25 euros (1st class)." , informs the consumer advice center. However, amounts less than four euros will not be paid out - so there must usually have been several delays.

The railway recommends that you always have delays confirmed by company employees. However, on strike days this will often prove to be difficult. The consumer advice center therefore advises documenting the delay by taking photos of display boards or a screenshot of the delay information in the app or on the website.

Compensation can be submitted to Deutsche Bahn by post with a completed passenger rights form and receipts or handed in at the travel center. Customers who have bought a ticket online can also do this directly in the app or on the computer in their customer account. More information about online reimbursement can be found here.

All refunds must be made within one year of the expiry of the associated ticket. The first day of validity is noted on the ticket.

If it is clear before departure that the train will arrive at its destination at least an hour later than planned, rail travelers can cancel the trip and have the full fare refunded. This also applies to canceled trains or missed connections. If you are already on the move and cancel the journey, you can have the unused portion refunded. If travelers return to the starting station, they get the full price back.

Since the reform of EU passenger rights, travelers have another option: they can continue/start the journey with another transport company, for example Flixtrain or Flixbus. The costs will be reimbursed if the railway company has agreed to this onward transport with another provider. Or travelers “were not informed by the railway company within 100 minutes of the scheduled departure time of the delayed or canceled transport service or the missed connection whether and how they could continue traveling with a changed route,” writes the consumer advice center.

The worst case scenario for many travelers during a strike: they are stuck at a train station. If the train cannot take you to your destination by any other route, the company must arrange accommodation for you. The route to the hotel and to the train station the next day must also be organized. This regulation also applies if travelers are stranded in a location due to “extraordinary circumstances”. However, the railway company can then limit accommodation to three nights.

If you want to get a hotel yourself, the consumer advice center recommends obtaining confirmation from the relevant railway company that there will no longer be any trains running that day and that the company cannot help with accommodation. Consumers must keep the hotel bill in order to be able to submit it. The railway informs on its website that hotel costs of up to 120 euros can be entered online in the passenger rights form under the item "Due to the delay I had additional expenses | I could not use my reservation". For costs higher than 120 euros, the original receipts must be submitted by post.

Sources: Consumer Center 1, Consumer Center 2, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bahn 2, Railway Traffic Regulations, EU Passenger Rights Regulation

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