Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The service of Deutsche Bahn

Dear readers, as you might know I went to the Cactus and Succulent Market in Essen on Sunday July 5th and I would rather post a long report about that but there is a pressing matter I feel like I have to write about first.

I went to Essen with a friend by the German railway company Deutsche Bahn. My friend went from Luxembourg and I joined her in Trier. The travel distance Trier-Essen takes 4h30 to 5h according to our plan, depending on how many times we have to change trains. For the whole trip I paid 51€ with BahnCard 25 discount and she paid the full prise of about 85€. So basically it should have been a one-day trip of 4h there and 4h back for me with the return train leaving at 18h00 and arriving back in Trier as early as 21h30.

Good plan, we thought. We even considered delays and possible travel by a later train. There was enough time. At this point I need to mention that we absolutely had to come back the same day as we had work on Monday and she also had to be there for her young child. 

The way there went well. We had to change trains one time more than expected because of delays but it's okay, we thought, usual thing with Deutsche Bahn, no problem. After a wonderful day in Essen we arrived at the train station to take our 18h00 train back. 

On the platform the display first said the train was delayed by several minutes and then "train canceled". No explanation. Fellow travelers we saying it's due to thunderstorms up north and the trains not being able to come through. Well, ok, bad luck, we can take a later train. We went to the information point (huge queue) where a DB employee printed the new travel plans for us for the train leaving at 19h. As it was almost time we went to the platform where the display said "train canceled". No explanation, no directions for further actions, no alternatives, nothing. Couldn't they have said that to us at the info point? Just let us know that no trains will go, not now and not an hour later? Why print fake plans a couple of minutes earlier? Just to make us leave the queue? We could have just as well printed out no-use out-dated plans at the ticket vendor. At the platform no one had a clue what to do. It was rumored that the only way out of Essen must be through Düsseldorf. Note that no official person from Deutsche Bahn was anywhere near and no announcements came except for "the train xy has been canceled". The train to Düsseldorf came and everyone, no matter the original destination, people traveling as far as Munich, just went inside in the hope to be able to find their connection from Düsseldorf. 

Again, no person from the railway staff there to ask what we should do or whether we should better wait.

To make things worse, the train we were on stopped in a town in the middle of nowhere for what felt like at least 20 min. No conductor or anyone telling us what happened. Then came an announcement that nobody could understand (every second syllable missing) but we just assumed we had to get out as it was a longer one. Arrived at the platform someone was saying "platform 2" and we just ran there as desperate as we were and got on a train standing there that actually indeed brought everyone to Düsseldorf (we had no way of knowing whether it would now that I think about it).

In Düsseldorf we went to the ticket counter like everyone else to get our new connection. Only 2 and later 3 persons (out of 11 counters) were there and around 21h it was our turn. The Deutsche Bahn employee told us then that there is absolutely no way we get to Trier and Luxembourg today as there are no trains, everything is canceled due to the weather and it's too late anyway. Is there a bus? "I don't know, it's not my job to know." No apology, no help and no suggestions. We learned from fellow travelers all trains have been canceled since hours. There were absolutely no alternatives in place and not even announcements or any other information for travelers were prepared. Deutsche Bahn didn't even bother to place an employee on the platforms to explain the situation to people or provide coherent speaker announcements. The completely rude guy at the counter printed a connection to Koblenz for us as according to him this is the farthest we can travel today (we thought of taking a taxi from there).

With the new plans for a train leaving at 21h27 we went to the platform just in time to hear the announcement "train is canceled" that obviously has been playing for while. Why print out the plans then? Why make us wait in queue at all? What now? No DB staff on the platform, no suggestions on the displays, no idea what trains are standing there or where they are going. My phone was dead by the time and my friend's didn't work in Germany. We asked someone to use their phone to google (!!) info on where we should go and whether there are any buses we can take that will bring us closer to our destination. Using a phone of a nice and helpful woman my friend remembered that there should be night buses going from Frankfurt Airport to Luxembourg. We didn't know for sure whether there really were buses that day and whether we could take them without reservation and pay cash to the driver or even if there were free seats. On a hunch we got on a train to Frankfurt Airport (that, by the way, was delayed by 85 min by then). The info on the train didn't match the destination at all so we were just hoping it is the correct one.

We arrived in Frankfurt Airport  exhausted after 23h00, got lost, found an info point and yes, there was a bus going to Luxembourg via Trier at 2h45 and we should be able to buy the tickets from the driver (29€). We waited 3 hours to get on it. Ah, should I also mention that we were dressed for the heatwave and not spending the night at the air-conditioned airport and I had two big boxes with plants (mostly stones) with me (calluses on hands now)?

We changed buses at 4h20 in Frankfurt Hahn and I arrived in Trier 5h30 on July 6th while my friend was traveling farther to Luxembourg. It arrived just in time to bring the plants home, change clothes, wash my face and then get on the bus to work at 6h30.

Thank you Deutsche Bahn. I am not going to use your services ever again.

...  is what I'd like to say. But unfortunately people traveling in Germany don't have any alternative but to use Deutsche Bahn. Therefore Deutsche Bahn will never be motivated to improve its service. 

I will try to get my money back this time but I doubt Deutsche Bahn will manage even that. I doubt I will get even an apology.

I'd like to use this as an official complaint. Not about the canceled trains (I understand that the weather is no one's fault), but about how the situation was dealt with and how the travelers were just left there on the platforms and in delayed trains without any help or guidance from the Deutsche Bahn staff.


  1. Rika, we can't wait for the reviews and photos of the new arrivals!

    1. Hi Nick :) The post is coming up. I didn't take many pictures at the Expo but I'm going to post photos of the plants I bought soon.

  2. All businesses suffer problems [ from weather or whatever ] it is how they deal with them which matters and not telling customers what is going on is inexcusable.

    1. Very true. And when this happens to you you're just stunned...
      They said I'll hear from them in 4 weeks regarding compensation ....

    2. I understand you very well because I could tell you many stories like that about SNCF and SNCB (France and Belgium)...

      Hope you can get something from them for the inconvenience, but it's hard and light when you get it. Now, you know what to expect for the next time you use their services :/


    3. Thank you Jimmy! Sad to hear that in France and Belgium the situation is not better. There should be more competition within railway related services. Maybe fear of losing clients will make them care for them more...

      Also, it might be time to think about a car...