Travel advice – missed connections on Deutsche Bahn

We all miss connections on trains and have to work out how to manage the journey. Natives know roughly how to negotiate their own railway system – I think I am reasonably good with the UK system, though by no means all-knowledgeable – but when we travel beyond our borders, it can be a bit daunting when things go wrong, especially at the end of the day when there are no more trains going to one’s planned final destination.

So, on 27 July 2019 I was heading to Munich from Hastings in the UK. That involved four different train operators: SouthEastern Trains, UK; Eurostar; Thalys; Deutsche Bahn (DB). The bookings had to be made through each individual train operator. Using ticketing agents makes it more expensive. They do not optimise on price. When booking one has to ensure changing time between trains and some delay wiggle room. For example, the Eurostar was 25 minutes delayed leaving London and accumulated further delays en-route; for example, waiting to enter the Channel Tunnel. I’d allowed myself 75 minutes changing time at Brussels Midi (left). About right for the middle of summer when it is really busy.

The train was making good progress towards Köln where I was going to change again at 1955 on to the ICE to Munich.  Changing time was 45 minutes. Owing to a power failure at Aachen, we were delayed by 150 minutes. That was my connection lost. So, what’s to do? The Thalys train manager was at the end of her tether. It has been a tough week with record-breaking temperatures and any number of delays as the infrastructure struggled to cope. I felt for her.

Here’s my advice, get a “Bescheinigung” (right) from DB. At Köln, there was an information “Schalter” on the platform (Gleis 4) where it could be issued. Essentially, this confirms that the connecting train was late (although it was a non-DB train that was late, it was late because of a DB infrastructure failure) and that it is possible to travel on a non-booked train at no extra cost. DB conductors are quite strict with tickets, so take the argument away from them, especially when our language skills are not the best. I eventually travelled on the 2230 Köln-München train. Arrival München Hbf 0602. Not the most comfortable experience as it is not a sleeper service, but it got me to my destination.

Happy rail travelling.

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