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‘We’re running late on this’: Deutsche Bahn promises better Wifi on German trains by 2026

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn has vowed to address what is widely considered to be one of the weakest areas of the country's telecommunications network: internet on trains.

'We're running late on this': Deutsche Bahn promises better Wifi on German trains by 2026
A Wifi hotspot sign is displayed on the side of a German train in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Rainer Jensen

Deutsche Bahn chairman Dr. Richard Lutz made the promise in a press conference on Wednesday, where he announced a new partnership with German telecommunications operator Deutsche Telekom to improve the Wifi on trains by 2026.

“Trains are not just a means of transport to our customers – they are an office, conference room, and place to relax all at the same time,” he said. 

“To do all that, our passengers rightly demand that there be gap-free coverage with the mobile communications network. We are now laying the foundations needed to achieve this.”

He appeared together with the CEO of German telecommunications operator Deutsche Telekom, Tim Höttges, and the Minister for Transport, Andreas Scheuer (CSU), in the Bahn’s headquarters, high above Berlin’s central train station.

Deutsche Bahn’s rail network covers a total of 33,400 kilometers, 7,800 kilometers of which are major routes which are used by all ICE trains as well as main IC trains.

READ ALSO: Delayed train? Germany’s Deutsche Bahn to give online refunds for first time

Deutsche Telekom wants to supply these major routes with fast broadband by the end of 2024. 

By 2025, the company aims to supply another 13,800 kilometers of heavily-travelled routes – used by more than 2,000 passengers daily – with consistently fast Wifi.

The rest of the train operator’s routes should then be competed by 2026.

A “radical improvement”?

The patchy signal along Germany’s railway networks has long been considered one of the weakest areas of the country’s telecommunications network.

In 2015, the government insisted that the networks take action to improve the poor Wifi network on trains by 2019 – but the operators continue to drag their feet.

According to a report by the Federal Network Agency, there are around 550 fewer antennas near railway tracks than are needed to provide consistent service.

In his opening conference remarks, Höttges expressed his discomfort at returning to the age-old topic: “We’re running late on this, I’m fully aware of that,” he told journalists. 

Also attending the press conference, Minister for Transport Andreas Scheuer welcomed the new partnership.

READ ALSO: This new European high-speed rail network will take you from Vienna to Berlin in four hours

“The time of ‘I have no network’ must come to an end,” he said. “Mobile surfing and telephony must be possible everywhere and at all times.” 

Though the proposed changes are set to take another five years to be completed, Deutsche Bahn and Telekom described the plans as a “radical improvement” on the current situation.

Vocabulary

Wifi access – WLAN-Zugang

Railway lines – (die) Bahnstrecken or (die) Bahnstrecke 

Connection – (der) Anschluss

Dead zone – (das) Funkloch

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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STRIKES

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

Berlin

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.

Frankfurt

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.

NRW

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 www.bahn.de website.

Bavaria

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?

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