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Why is Deutsche Bahn seeing a record high number of delays this year?

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Why is Deutsche Bahn seeing a record high number of delays this year?
A display board at Stuttgart's main station shows delays for several train connections. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

In May, the punctuality of Deutsche Bahn's long-distance trains reached a record low for the year, with only 65.5 percent of trains arriving at their scheduled stops on time.


Construction works, infrastructure upgrades, and ongoing wage disputes are contributing to an increase in delays for Deutsche Bahn.

Deutsche Bahn considers a train to be on time if it arrives at a station with a delay of no more than six minutes. Train cancellations and missed connections are not factored into the statistics, which means that the impact of train cancellations is not reflected in the reported figures.

Deutsche Bahn attributes the main cause of the most recent delays to construction sites, citing the recent replacement of approximately 50,000 sleepers in the rail network last month as part of a special inspection programme.

Repercussions from a fatal crash

The ongoing construction works are largely in response to the fatal accident in Bavaria last June, when a regional train derailed on the Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Munich route, resulting in five deaths and numerous injured passengers.

READ ALSO: Germany opens probe against rail staff over deadly crash

In response, Deutsche Bahn took initial actions last summer by inspecting and replacing 200,000 concrete sleepers. This affected 165 locations in the national rail network, including many routes in southern Bavaria, Saxony, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, and Berlin. 

As a result, only 58 percent of long-distance trains reached their destinations on time in June last year.

Deutsche Bahn now estimates that a total of 480,000 sleepers will need to be replaced this year and, though it aims to replace the affected sleepers as quickly as possible, it describes it as an “immense challenge”, as skilled personnel and construction machinery are already in short supply due to other ongoing construction projects.


Deutsche Bahn has also said that much of the rail network is already outdated and requires urgent renovation in many areas, and the network is under strain as it has to accommodate more trains than it was originally designed for.

Strike actions

Meanwhile, the wage dispute between Deutsche Bahn and the EVG (the railway worker's union) is rumbling on after several strikes in the past months led to delayed or cancelled trains. 

Representatives from both sides are planning to meet in the coming days to explore possible solutions, but, so far, no additional strikes are expected prior to the planned discussion.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get compensation for delayed or cancelled trains in Germany

Although the negotiations seemed to have reached an impasse in recent days, EVG said in a statement last week: "We do see possibilities of finding a basis for constructive negotiations. We want to discuss this calmly."

Deutsche Bahn accepted the offer for a meeting of the negotiating leaders on Thursday evening, with a spokesperson saying, "We hope that this meeting will prompt the EVG to present possible compromises on their part that will finally lead to a wage agreement."

READ ALSO: When will the next set of rail strikes take place in Germany?


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