Passengers have these rights during a rail strike

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The European Regulation (EU) 2021/782 (” VO”), which has been in force since June 7, 2023, regulates the requirements for the assertion of individual claims by passengers. At the same time, the national rail transport regulations (“EVO”) regulate supplementary passenger rights for local transport.

Deutsche Bahn

According to the VO, rail passengers can claim compensation if they are at least 60 minutes late on arrival at their destination (stated on the ticket). The amount of compensation depends on the ticket price and the delay time:

25% of the ticket price for a delay of 60 to 119 minutes,
50% of the ticket price for delays of 120 minutes or more.

If the contract of carriage was concluded for a return journey, the compensation for the delay that occurred on the outward or return journey is generally calculated on the basis of half the ticket price.

Only in strictly regulated exceptional cases can the railroad company invoke an exclusion of liability: in the event of exceptional circumstances, fault on the part of the passenger or delay due to the behavior of a third party. Exceptional circumstances refer to situations that are not related to railroad operations, such as extreme weather conditions, major natural disasters or serious public health crises. Third-party conduct that is not attributable to the railroad company should include, among other things, trespassing on the tracks, cable theft, emergencies on the train and law enforcement measures. However, the exclusion of liability only applies if the railroad company was unable to avoid such an event or avert its consequences for passengers despite exercising due care in the circumstances. This does not include a strike by the railroad company’s staff.

In the event of a service failure or delay of more than 60 minutes, passengers must also be offered the following services free of charge, regardless of fault:

- Meals and refreshments in reasonable proportion to the waiting time - if available or deliverable on the train or at the station (does not apply to local services),
- accommodation in a hotel or other accommodation as well as 
- transportation to the place of accommodation in cases where a stay of one or more nights is necessary - if practicable. In the event of exceptional circumstances, the duration of accommodation is limited to a maximum of three nights.

If a delay of more than 60 minutes at the destination of the contract of carriage is foreseeable on departure due to a missed connection or train cancellation, the railroad undertaking operating the service shall offer either a refund of the full ticket price or the continuation of the journey at the next opportunity or at a later time (under comparable transport conditions, possibly also with a changed route).

If the delay occurs during the journey, passengers may terminate the journey and return to their point of departure free of charge at the next opportunity. The full fare will also be refunded if the journey is interrupted. In this case, however, passengers cannot claim additional compensation for the delay.

If passengers decide to continue their journey, this should always be free of charge. At the request of the passenger, the railroad company may agree to conclude contracts with other transport service providers for this purpose. As a result, the costs incurred by the passengers must be reimbursed.

Passengers may also use other providers of public transport services (rail, coach or bus) and purchase corresponding tickets if they are not informed by the railroad undertaking of any options for an onward journey within 100 minutes of the scheduled departure time. The railroad company must reimburse the necessary, appropriate and reasonable costs incurred as a result.

If the route is blocked, transportation must be offered from the train to the station, to an alternative departure point or to the destination of the transport service (if practicable), but not necessarily to the destination of the contract of carriage.

The railroad company is generally not liable for consequential damage caused by a train delay or a train cancellation (e.g. a missed plane).

Travel at a different time

What Deutsche Bahn is currently (and has repeatedly in the past) unlawfully informing you about is the right to a different travel date.
According to Art. 18 Para. 1 lit. c) of Regulation 2021/782/EU, in the event of a delay in arrival of more than 60 minutes, you have the right to continue the journey or to continue the journey with a changed routing under comparable transport conditions to the destination at a later time of the passenger’s choice. This time can be chosen completely freely by the passenger, it can be days or even weeks later, only the limitation period of one year according to Art. 60 Para. 2 of the Passenger Rights Regulation limits this possibility. This right exists independently of any goodwill rules of the railroad company.

Fare compensation

If the ticket is used, the rail company is also liable for 25% of the fare if the arrival is delayed by at least 60 minutes, or 50% if the delay exceeds 120 minutes.

Meals and accommodation

If the delay is 60 minutes or more, the railroad must provide meals. If this is not the case, you can procure a reasonable amount of food yourself and submit it for reimbursement (this does not apply to local transport!). If an overnight stay is necessary, the railroad must also provide a hotel and – if this is not done – reimburse any hotel costs that you have subsequently incurred. Incidentally, there is no limit of € 80.00 or € 120.00 for these expenses, which the railroad tries to bring into play from time to time. I recommend that you also write to the rail transport company by email (look for the address in the legal notice = Impressum) and set a (possibly short) deadline for payment. If DB Fernverkehr AG is affected, this would be, for example.

And if no money arrives?

Especially for non-standard cases, the Passenger Rights Service Center of Deutsche Bahn seems completely unsuitable. In these cases, after setting a deadline, a lawyer should check the claim and, if necessary, enforce it. As a rule, the railroad company is then also obliged to bear the additional costs incurred due to the delay.

Just to repeat most important:
If you take alternative transport, i.e. Flix-Bus, Deutsche Bahn should pay you the difference.
If you are not using the ticket and even it is the cheapest ticket, now it became a full flexible ticket and is one year valid. So you can use the ticket for expensive times.
And Deutsche Bahn should pay you 50 % back as you are more than 60 minutes late … (from the original restricted journey).

We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information. We have researched the information to the best of our knowledge and belief. The article was written with information from SOEP and Travel lawyer Dr. Mathias Böse

BTW: S-Bahn belongs to Deutsche Bahn and is on strike as well. Also Deutsche Bahn Regional Express are on strike, while from other companies its normal working.
Bus, Tram and U-Bahn belongs to BVG and are not on strike.

S-Bahn to Airport

The strike goes from Wednesday till Monday (30 january), which should be the last day.

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