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TRAIN TRAVEL

UPDATE: How a cargo train collision is disrupting travel across Germany

Long-distance and regional rail routes have been severely affected by a major collision that occurred on Thursday, with disruption due to last until late November. Here's how passengers across Germany are affected.

Cargo train collision Gifhorn
An aerial photo shows the impact of the collision between two cargo trains on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bundespolizeiinspektion Hannover | ---

What’s going on?

On Thursday morning, two large cargo trains collided on a stretch of rail track between Wolfsburg and Hannover. According to a spokesperson from the fire brigade, the first freight train had stopped at a signal near the town of Gifhorn when the second train ploughed into it from the back.

It’s still unclear what caused the incident. Both of the train drivers were injured, with the second being taken to hospital. 

The force of the impact ripped out the overhead lines and at least two carriages transporting propane gas were overturned, while two further carriages were derailed. 

It caused highly explosive propane gas to leak out of the carriages, meaning emergency services have so far been unable to start clearing the area. 

The accident occurred in a relatively remote stretch of woodland and police say residents of Gifhorn won’t be affected. However, the location of the incident on one of the busiest stretches of Germany’s rail network means that it has had a significant impact on train services. 

READ ALSO: Train collision in northern Germany causes nationwide travel delays

Which routes are affected? 

As a result of the collision, a significant portion of the railway track between Wolfsburg and Lehrte has been cordoned off, which means numerous services have had to be diverted.

These include long-distance trains travelling from North-Rhine Westphalia to Berlin via Hanover, trains from Switzerland to Berlin via Frankfurt and services between Amsterdam and Berlin. 

According to the latest Deutsche Bahn information, the following trains have been cancelled:

  • ICE Line 9: Berlin – Bonn
  • Some ICE/IC Line 24 trains: Hamburg – Hannover – Berlin / Berlin – Frankfurt/Süddeutschland
  • Some IC Line 26 trains: Berlin – Hannover – Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe – Fulda – Frankfurt/Süddeutschland
  • Some IC Line 32 trains: Berlin – Hannover – Dortmund – Köln – Mannheim – Stuttgart – Ulm
  • IC Line 56: Dresden – Leipzig – Magdeburg – Hannover – Bremen – Emden – Norddeich Mole

There is also disruption on the following routes: 

ICE trains from Hamm and Münster to Berlin via Hanover: Trains from Hamm or Münster to Berlin will be diverted and will make a stop at Stendal rather than Wolfsburg. This is expected to add at least 90 minutes to the travel time for passengers travelling from Münster and at least 60 minutes to the travel time for passengers travelling from Hanover. 

READ ALSO: ‘A disaster’: How did train travel in Germany get so bad?

ICE trains from Switzerland to Berlin via Frankfurt: ICE trains from Switzerland to Berlin will be diverted and will no longer stop at Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, Göttingen and Wolfsburg. Alternatively, passengers can exit the train at Erfurt and Halle.

IC trains from Amsterdam to Berlin via Hanover: IC trains between Amsterdam and Berlin will terminate in Hanover. Passengers travelling onwards to Berlin can change to the diverted ICE train, which stops at Stendal rather than Wolfsburg. Those travelling on to Wolfsburg can take the RE35 between Stendal and Wolfsburg. This journey is expected to take around an hour.

IC trains from Leipzig to Hanover via Magdeburg: IC trains will no longer be running between Leipzig and Hanover. Passengers should take alternative routes via Stendal, Halle or Berlin. 

IC trains from Ostseebad Binz to Cologne via Berlin will terminate at Berlin Ostbahnhof.

IC trains from Cologne to Dresden via Hanover will no longer run between Cologne and Braunschweig. 

Trains from Berlin to Göttingen are also affected by the track closure. Deutsche Bahn says passengers will be able to take an alternative ICE train to Erfurt and then change to the RE1 to Göttingen, which takes around one hour and 40 minutes. 

Between Berlin and Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, the railway recommends using long-distance intercity trains and changing at Eisenach or Fulda.

How long will the disruption last?

According to Deutsche Bahn, a number of routes will be affected until at least November 27th.

That’s because emergency services still have to wait until the propane gas tanks are completely empty before they can access the area, and the subsequent clean-up operation may take a number of days. 

People travelling on any of the disrupted routes should keep an eye on the Deutsche Bahn website or DB Navigator app for updates. You can also find alternative routes by running your start and end destination through DB’s journey planning tool online.

If your route is affected, check out our explainer below to learn whether you could be entitled to compensation. 

READ ALSO: What are my rights if a train is delayed or cancelled in Germany?

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TRAIN TRAVEL

5 tips for stress-free train travel in Germany over Christmas

Despite laying on more trains, Germany’s national rail operator Deutsche Bahn is still expecting delays and full carriages over the holiday season. Here's what's going on and how you can save money and stress on your travels.

5 tips for stress-free train travel in Germany over Christmas

What will the train travel situation look like over Christmas?

In mid-December, Deutsche Bahn’s new timetable will start, meaning an additional 40,000 seats will be available over Christmas. About 800 new employees will also join the service team by December 24th.

Deutsche Bahn’s board member for long-distance transport told Bild am Sonntag that these measures mean that Deutsche Bahn “is well prepared for Christmas”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany’s long-distance train services will change from December

Karl-Peter Naumann, Chairman of the passenger association Pro Bahn is also advising travellers to take the train instead of the car over the holidays: “It’s probably even more crowded on the roads,” he said.

However, December is always a very busy time on the trains and both Deutsche Bahn and Pro Bahn advise travellers to be prepared for delays and busy trains. Here are five useful tips for travellers to keep in mind.

1. Book in advance

Train travel over the holidays is popular, which means tickets sell out fast or get expensive very quickly.

Ticket prices are also about to increase, as the so-called flex fares will rise by an average of almost seven percent from December 11th.

A man enters a train carriage in Lübeck. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

However, the saver and super-saver prices will remain unchanged, so if you book early enough you might even snap up a ticket on a long route for €17.90.

2. Book a seat

If you don’t want to stand for three hours or be asked to move halfway through your journey by another passenger telling you “that’s my seat” – book your seat in advance.

On most Deutsche Bahn trains, the ticket itself doesn’t include a seat and you need to add this as an extra. Prices for seats start at €4.50 and you can usually choose which type of carriage you want to sit in and whether you have a window, aisle or table seat.

Families with young children can also book a “Familienbereich” for €9, which is a closed-off section which includes enough space for a pram, and built-in toys.

3. Avoid travel at the busiest times

If you want to book a ticket from Berlin to Cologne on the Friday afternoon before Christmas Eve you will have to fork out at least €100, even at the super saver price. Such popular times are expensive and have already been booked way in advance – so it’s worth considering travelling at a less popular time.

On the display in the DB Navigator app, a travel plan indicates the possibly high capacity for the connection between Berlin-Gesundbrunnen and Stralsund. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Georg Hilgemann

If you can, try to avoid the Friday and Saturday before the holidays and take a day’s holiday earlier, when tickets are cheaper and the trains aren’t so full.

It’s also worth considering travelling during off-peak hours. “You can also leave at five in the morning and continue sleeping on the train,” says Karl-Peter Naumann from Pro Bahn.

4. Plan for delays

Plan for longer connecting times or book direct connections if possible, as every change of train involves a risk.

READ ALSO: Rail travel chaos looms in Germany’s most populous state

When booking your train online, you can see how many connections are included in the trip and also how long you will have to change trains. If the change time is less than ten minutes, it may be worth booking an earlier connecting train, as delays could lead to you missing the next train.

5. Stay informed

Just because you now have a seat and are on the booked train doesn’t mean there can’t be any more surprises. Stay up to date, by activating “Trip notifications” in the DB Navigator app and check the local transport authority’s website the day before you travel. 

READ ALSO: ‘Deutschlandticket’: What you need to know about Germany’s new €49 travel ticket 

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