“There's no train?” one frustrated traveller asked.
“Yes, no train!” a Deutsche Bahn employee at Berlin’s central station said, not for the first time on Friday.
“Train services have been cancelled – all train services,” he added.
After storm Xavier blew across northern Germany on Thursday, ripping down hundreds of trees along its way, train services in much of the north of the country were brought to a complete halt. On Friday, helicopters scoured the train lines leading from Berlin to other major cities to check for damage.
By Friday morning commuters were still waiting in long queues at the information desks throughout the modern glass structure of Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Many waited for over an hour before they could ask their question. By the afternoon, the queues slowly thinned out.
“I have no idea what I'll do today if I can't get home,” Martin, who was trying to get to Bielefeld, told The Local as he waited at the back of the line at an information desk.
He added that he was generally in good spirits and had expected serious disruptions after the storm. But he had no idea how he was going to get out of Berlin though – he had considered travelling through Munich or Stuttgart, but said that those trains had been fully booked.
— Shelley Pascual (@shelleypascual) October 6, 2017
But not everything went smoothly at the Hauptbahnhof on Friday. In one incident, police partially cleared a train bound for Frankfurt after too many people tried to squeeze on board.
A group of school children trying to get home to Marburg complained that Deutsche Bahn had shown “poor crisis management.” They were supposed to get on a train in the late morning, but after it was cancelled they weren't offered a replacement. The school has instead hired a private bus.
— The Local Germany (@TheLocalGermany) October 6, 2017
Mainly, people were told to come again another day.
“I’d recommend that you don’t travel at all today,” one Bahn employee repeatedly told travellers who wanted to go to Hamburg or Hanover. “Go home. Make your journey on another day.”
One young man stood in the centre of the station, shouting “I need to go to Hanover. Who wants to share a taxi? Who needs to go to Hanover?”
Many people spent Thursday night on trains in the lowest section of the station trying to get a few winks of sleep. Deutsche Bahn had brought in what it calls “hotel trains” for stranded passengers.
But the carriages have little of the comfort that the name might suggest. The people who spent the night there had to use the chairs as beds. Some slept in sleeping bags, others under blankets.
“It hasn’t been so easy here,” one young woman said.
By 3pm on Friday there was finally some relief for passengers headed towards Hanover. Deutsche Bahn announced over the Tannoy system that they had set up a replacement bus service to the capital of Lower Saxony.
Reporting by Shelley Pascual