Every single year, Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German railway giant, seems to be experiencing problems. In 2017, when a previous heatwave struck the country, the air conditioning in many fast ICE (Inter City Express) trains gave up. There were stories about hundreds of passengers who were stuck in overheating rail carriages, like chickens in a grill.
This year, things are different. Apparently the onboard air conditioning units run like Swiss clockworks, but the Deutsche Bahn’s schedule is messed up. So Germans are always punctual? Maybe, but not the trains.
In July of 2018, only 72,1 percent of all ICE and IC trains arrived at their destinations on time. That is a pretty embarrassing value, and the worst recorded this year. But, naturally, there are good explanations.
A DB spokesperson stated today, the extreme temperatures had led to more malfunctions on trains and the infrastructure. Also they mentioned a large fire close to the city of Kassel last month. Due to the danger, the important high-speed route from north to south had to be closed temporarily.
There were even more excuses. According to Deutsche Bahn, a large-scale cabled theft heist in the Cologne region was the reason for even more delays. Close to Erfurt in Eastern Germany, a big police operation in July had had the same effect, DB said.
On top of all of the above, large construction projects on long stretches of DB’s rather large track network had slowed down the trains as well.
But there were good news too: Regional trains were far more punctual than those on long distance routes. Many German commuters depend on regional railroad transport. Also there were less outages in July than during the same period in 2017.
According to Deutsche Bahn’s official policy, trains which arrive at a destination less than six minutes after the time printed on the schedule are punctual.
Apart from the delays, which are quite costly since DB has to reimburse many passengers, there is more trouble: The company recently received a warning from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. That is because in a promotional video, DB had said even passengers who were not ‘Bahncard’ holders were allowed to use the local public transport at their destination free of charge on the day of arrival.
According to the federation, the information is inaccurate, since that offer applies in 126 participating cities and towns only, but not in the rest of them.
Deutsche Bahn is a private joint-stock company, but the only stockholder is the Federal Republic of Germany. Its trains carry around two billion passengers per year. That number easily makes it the largest railway operator in Europe.