Rail passengers in Germany paid €53.6 million compensation over late trains

Germany’s biggest rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) paid out €53.6 million in compensation to customers last year, according to a DB spokeswoman – a huge increase from the €34.6 million that was reimbursed to passengers in 2017, or double that of the previous year.

Rail passengers in Germany paid €53.6 million compensation over late trains
Rail passengers at Munich main station. Photo: DPA

More rail travellers than ever are asking for compensation due to late trains, reports DPA. Around 2.7 million passengers made a claim over delays in 2018 – 50 percent more than in 2017, according to new figures.

The average amount of compensation is also rising: it was just under €20 in 2018, compared to €19 the previous year.

Numerous railway companies are involved in the compensation system, not only Deutsche Bahn (DB). However, by far the largest part of the sum is linked to long-distance trains, which are almost exclusively run by the state-owned company.

SEE ALSO: How Deutsche Bahn plans to improve its service and staffing in 2019

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about travelling by train in Germany

The figures also go some way to dispel the myth that Germany is a punctual country: every fourth long-distance train was late in 2018.

DB blamed the delays on situations that were often out of their hands. They said storms, heavy rain, lightning strikes and the summer drought all slowed down train travel in the Bundesrepublik last year.

Furthermore, there was a track closure after a fire on an ICE long-distance train in October, plus a strike by railway workers in December that paralyzed the whole network.

Passengers' rights

Passengers can ask for compensation if they arrive at their destination an hour late. In this situation they can receive a quarter of their fare back by submitting an application. If there’s a two hour delay, passengers can receive half their fare back.

This has been the case since summer 2009 – and the number of applications for compensation has steadily increased since then. From July 2009 to June 2010, 800,000 passengers turned to the Passenger Rights Service Centre.

In future, customers may be able to get even more money back. As The Local has reported, the EU Parliament wants to ensure that for delays of one-and-a-half-hours, three-quarters of the ticket price would have to be refunded, and for delays of more than two hours, the whole price.

SEE ALSO: Train travellers in Germany should receive more money back for delays: Vote

If passengers miss a connecting train, they should also be entitled to a seat on the next train at no additional cost, according to EU politicians.

There’s also the issue of how passengers can claim cash back. For years, consumer protectors have been demanding that customers should be able to assert their rights online. Currently they must send a letter by post.

“The fact that parties have to print out the passenger rights form and send it by letter post is no longer up-to-date, but downright antiquated”, traffic expert Marion Jungbluth told German business publication Handelsblatt.

Jungbluth suspects that customers would demand their money back more frequently if the claim could be done online.

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How to navigate the Deutsche Bahn train strikes in your region of Germany

A standoff between the GDL train drivers’ union and Deutsche Bahn means that rail services will be crippled nationwide in Germany for five days. Here’s the information you need to navigate the strikes in your region.

How to navigate the Deutsche Bahn train strikes in your region of Germany
Berlin central station on Thursday morning. Photo: dpa | Paul Zinken

Deutsche Bahn is encouraging travellers to download the DB Navigator app and to use it immediately before they travel in order to see which services are currently running.

There is some information in English but the detailed lists of which lines are still running are in German. We provide links here to those pages and a brief overview of the main lines that have been affected. (tip: if it says Linie eingestellt, trains aren’t running on that line. 20-Minuten Takt means they’re running every 20 minutes).

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about the German rail strikes


In the capital, S-Bahn services and regional train services have been severely impacted by the strike but the U-Bahn is not run by Deutsche Bahn so is running normally. That means that trying to get around by bus and U-Bahn (both run by BVG) should help you avoid the strikes.

If you’re happy to do plan ahead, there are still some S-Bahn services running. This website (in German) details which lines have been completely closed and which ones still run a train every 20 minutes.

In terms of the key lines: the Ringbahn is not running at all in either direction. Nor is the north-south S26 line, the S45 to the airport (the S9 to BER is still running), and the S75 from Wartemberg in the north-east into the city.

All other S-Bahn lines are running every 20 minutes with the exception of the S8 which is running every 40 mins. Not all of them are doing the full route though.

You can plug your journey into this English page run by Deutsche Bahn and it will show you how to best avoid the strike action.

In terms of regional trains to and from satellite towns, there is a detailed list of which lines have been completely halted for the strike and which have a form of replacement service.

The following lines are not running at all: FEX, RB10, – RB11, RB13, RB20, RB21, RB22, RB23, RB31, RB49, RB55, RE/RB66

Other lines connecting Magdeburg, Dessau, Eberswalde, Stralsund, Rostock and Cottbus with the capital are running reduced services.


The German finance capital is also seriously affected by strikes on both its S-Bahn and regional services.

A full list of the lines that are not running reduced services can be found in German here.

Be careful to check for updates, as the page is updated every day at 11 am for the following day. 

Here are the current services for Thursday and Friday: The S2, S4, S7 and S9 are not running at all. Other lines are running on basic services but often only every hour.


A large number of regional and S-Bahn services in the west of the country have been completely stopped. These include the RE8 over Mönchengladbach, Cologne and Bonn, the RE9 between Aachen, Cologne and Siegen, and the RB33 between Essen and Aachen.

The S4 through Dortmund, the S8 through Düsseldorf and the S68 to Wuppertal have also been completely stopped. See here for further details.

Updates will be posted daily at 10:30am on the website.


In Munich, a replacement S-Bahn timetable has been put in place for the duration of the strikes, with long delays expected on most lines.

The S1, which normally runs between the city and the airport, will be running every 20-40 minutes, but won’t go as far as the airport. The S2, S3, S4 and S6 will equally be running a partial service every 20-40 minutes and won’t stop at all stations. 

The S7 will only be running on an hourly basis, while the S8 will be running every 20 minutes between Pasing and the airport, and will also be running every 40-60 minutes to stations further along the line.

The S20 will not be running at all during the strike.

DB has not yet published a detailed list available of which regional trains have been affected in Bavaria, but cross-border services into Austria, Italy and Hungary and likely to be heavily impacted.

However DB say that they will update the travel planner website for Bavaria every day at 12:00 for the following day. You can plug your departure point and destination into that site here or check for general travel updates on here.

Other areas of the country

Various other parts of the are facing impediments to travel due to the strike. The east of the country is particularly affected. For an exhaustive list of all of the regions of the country where lines are not running according to schedule you can peruse this web page (in German).

READ ALSO: Germany’s train strikes: What rights do you have as a passenger?