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

After an initial strike in mid-August, members of Germany's GDL train drivers' union are striking again. So what exactly is happening and what are your rights as a passenger?

Germany's train strikes: What rights do you have as a passenger?
Commuters queue at a helpdesk of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn at Berlin's Hauptbahnhof main railway station on August 11th, 2021, as train drivers stage a strike. German train drivers went on strike over wages, dealing a blow to summer holidaymakers and adding to logistics and supply problems already plaguing the industry. Only one in four long-distance trains will be in service on August 11th and 12th. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

Members of Germany’s GDL train drivers’ union went on strike again on the afternoon of Saturday 21st August. Only freight trains were affected over the weekend, but with passenger trains being affected from Monday, millions of passengers will face train cancellations and delays in the first half of the week. This includes holidaying travellers as it’s still the school holiday period in ten of Germany’s 16 states.

According to information on German railway company Deutsche Bahn’s website, it’s still offering “a reliable basic service”.

However, the railway adds that “in this situation we cannot guarantee that all travellers will reach their destination”. 

READ ALSO: Rail passengers in Germany face disruption as two-day strike announced

And it recommends postponing, if possible, any planned long-distance journeys until after the strikes finish on Wednesday.

You can find the latest information on affected services here.

If Deutsche Bahn are recommending postponing your journey, does that mean you can use your ticket on another date or a different train?

Yes. They say on their website that anyone who has booked a journey on the long-distance rail network between 23rd and 25th August on a route that’s affected by the strike can use their ticket flexibly any time from August 20th until September 4th.

And for saver and super-saver short and long-distance fares, you can use a different connecting train to what’s specified on your ticket during that period. 

You can change your seat reservation for free, too.  

If you’re using the local rail network, they say that if you already have a ticket you can use it straight away or up to and including 4th September, and you can use a different route if you need to.

But it’s not quite that simple for local train journeys: if you take a more expensive long-distance train, such as the ICE instead of the RE regional train, to complete your journey, you’ll need to first buy a dearer ticket or pay a surcharge and then claim the costs back later. However, this doesn’t apply to heavily discounted tickets, such as ‘Länder’ tickets.

Can you get a refund on your ticket?

Yes, if trains are not cancelled but you decide not to travel during the strike period, you can apply for a refund here if you bought your ticket online or in the DB travel centre if you purchased it there or from a machine.

Your ticket price will also be completely reimbursed if the strike would make your planned train arrive at least 60 minutes late and you don’t have to actually take the train to get the refund.

Do you get compensation for delays if you travel?

You do. If the train is delayed at the destination station by 60 minutes, you’ll get 25 percent of the ticket price back for a single journey and 50 percent for a delay of 120 minutes or more. 

So if, for example, you’ve booked a return ticket for 80 euros, you’ll get 10 euros compensation if the train’s delayed by at least 60 minutes on one of the journeys.

And if you have to interrupt your journey because of the strike and return to the station you started at, they’ll refund the unused portion of the journey. 

How is the compensation paid?

You can choose whether you’d like a voucher or the money back. 

What about if you’ve got a monthly ticket?

If you have a monthly ticket or some other kind of season ticket, you’ll receive compensation for delays of more than 60 minutes. There’s a flat rate for this, though: five euros for long-distance second-class tickets and ten euros for Bahncard 100.

For ‘Länder’ and ‘Schönes-Wochenende’ tickets, it’s 1.50 euros.

However, they’ll only pay out for amounts above 4 euros, so you might need to stack up receipts from a few delays.

Will the Bahn pay for taxis or hotel rooms?

There are two situations where Deutsche Bahn have to provide an alternative form of transport, German news website Tagesschau said: if the scheduled arrival time is between midnight and 5 am and the expected delay at the destination station is at least 60 minutes, or if the last scheduled connection of the day is cancelled and it’s no longer possible to reach the destination station by midnight without a taxi.

If the railway doesn’t do this — if it’s the middle of the night, for example — you can get a taxi yourself and then get the railway to reimburse the costs — up to a maximum of 80 euros.

If a train is cancelled or delays mean it’s no longer possible or reasonable to continue the journey that day, the railway has to provide customers with overnight accommodation or reimburse “reasonable accommodation costs” later.

If offered, passengers have to use the accommodation offered by the railway before looking for a hotel themselves, though.

Can you still take your bike with you on the strike days?
On its website, Deutsche Bahn asks passengers to not take their bikes with them on the strike days as long-distance services are expected to be very busy because of the reduced number of trains.

But if you’re travelling on the long-distance network and you’ve already bought a ticket with a bike ticket and reserved a bike spot in advance, you can get your bike shipped for free on the strike days by booking it online using ‘Fahrrad23’ as a code in the payment box.

However, this is only valid for ‘conventional’ bicycles, not for e-bikes, tandems and recumbent bicycles, etc.

Commuters stand in front of an information board reading “GDL strike! No rail traffic!” on a platform at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof main railway station on August 11th, 2021, as train drivers staged a strike. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Are Deutsche Bahn doing anything to avert further strikes?

Yes, they’ve offered a ‘Corona bonus’ which will be paid out this year, but the sum hasn’t been specified yet. Martin Seiler, Deutsche Bahn’s Chief Human Resources Officer said this meant there could “no longer be any reason [for GDL] to refuse to return the negotiating table,” Tagesschau reported.

READ ALSO: German train drivers call strike in escalating wage dispute

What are the union looking for?

GDL want a corona premium of 600 euros for their members, better working conditions and a wage increase of around 3.2 percent. 

What has Deutsche Bahn offered?

They’ve countered with a two-stage increase — 1.5 percent by January 1st, 2022 and 1.7 percent by March 1st, 2023, but GDL head Claus Weselsky has said this is not enough.

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.