Deutsche Bahn’s once-admired service has descended into chaos. Whether decades of poor investment or the company’s unusual structure is to blame, it’s a huge headache for a coalition trying to meet climate goals

The sleek high-speed train is 10 minutes behind schedule when it slides into Cologne’s main station before continuing its journey north to Dortmund. The delay is now such a common occurrence that the train manager does not even both to mention it to disembarking passengers.

In late afternoon on an unremarkable weekday in this western German city, holidaymakers are hauling suitcases through the station, workers are commuting home, and the late arrival of Deutsche Bahn’s IC 118 from Innsbruck is no surprise.

It does cause annoyance, though: a glance at the departures and arrivals board prompts one middle-aged man carrying a backpack to swear loudly as he enters the station.

  • nakal
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    797 months ago

    Former managers of Deutsche Bahn did not care to invest into modernization. Managers get money for showing and keeping plus in their Excel sheets. They leave the company with all kinds of bonuses for that and risk no repercussions.

    The next generation of managers are simply fucked. They inherit all the neglected infrastructure and bad processes.

    Additionally politics made it even worse. They told the managers that repairs are not a matter of subsidies. Only new infrastructure is supported. So Deutsche Bahn literally let the tracks and stations rot until they need to be totally renewed.

    This all based on absolute greed. And the best is you can harm Germany for free without any risks and keep all your money. No one here would get the idea to jail the responsible people who let it happen.

    • @drekly@lemmy.world
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      307 months ago

      Ah the British plan of a greedy corrupt right wing government that refuses to invest in the future and instead takes from it. We have shit trains too. I’d imagine much worse trains.

        • @drekly@lemmy.world
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          197 months ago

          Well our time zone is one hour behind, so if the train is an hour late you can say “at least it’s on time in the UK” and you’d be right twice, because all ours are an hour late 😅

    • AmbroisindeMontaigu
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      207 months ago

      repairs are not a matter of subsidies. Only new infrastructure is supported.

      That’s a big problem. If you incentivize a company to not maintain the infrastructure because you will pay for it once it’s completely broken it will be completely broken.

      • tetris11
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        67 months ago

        The company should still maintain the infrastructure, or pay back their consumers for every missed train. They’ve been making profit year-in year-out, the least they could do is throw some of their pocket change at the repair crew.

        • @DeadUncle@lemmy.world
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          27 months ago

          But most of those profits are coming from (or at least came from) DB Schenker, the trucking branch of the Deutsche Bahn. So they made their profits on the roads, not the tracks.

          • tetris11
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            17 months ago

            Ah I see, thanks for the context. Nonetheless, can’t DB take the profits from the Trucks and invest it in the Trains?

  • wootz
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    517 months ago

    My family and I took the train from Copenhagen, Denmark to Bologna, Italy and back again this summer.

    By and large it was a good experience. Taking the train through the alps is something I’ll never forget.

    To my great amazement, the trains in Italy ran smoother than the trains in Germany.

    On our return trip, we zipped from Bologna to Milano and from there to Frankfurt in just under nine hours. Smooth sailing. The Frecciarossa was by far the nicest train I’ve ever been on.

    Frankfurt to Copenhagen, a noticeably shorter distance, ended up taking fifteen hours. Our 7:14 train out of Frankfurt Central got moved to another station a mere fifteen minutes prior to departure. From there, everything devolved into a mess of missed trains and lack of communication. I think we ended up switching trains five or six times.

    Deutsche Bahn is a shadow of its former self, and it makes me profoundly sad that a nation globally known for precision and efficiency has such terrible train service.

    • @MonkderZweite@feddit.ch
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      7 months ago

      To my great amazement, the trains in Italy ran smoother than the trains in Germany.

      This is common knowledge in central europe.

      Swiss is great in trains, Austria not bad too, Italy and France works fine on the major tracks, Germany has strong lobby in car industry.

    • @RufusLoacker@feddit.it
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      127 months ago

      Italian here

      We give a lot of shit to our train system (and rightly so) but it actually works quite well, in comparison to our European neighbours.

      Bologna to Milano is a very nice line indeed

    • @Pfnic@feddit.ch
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      57 months ago

      As a Swiss, I will take the high speed train in Italy without mich worry. I went from Napoli to Milano in 4h. From there I went to Basel in another 4h for a much shorter distance. I had 2h of time planned in Milano for whatever happens but my Italo service evem ended up being early by 10 minutes!

    • Spzi
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      47 months ago

      got moved to another station a mere fifteen minutes prior to departure.

      I hate these! Once we were so busy saying good bye that we didn’t notice the reschedule in the last 8 minutes or so. Missed the train, wait 1h.

      • volvoxvsmarla
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        27 months ago

        How does this even work if you’re in a wheelchair or have a stroller? Half of the elevators in Munich don’t work and the other half is small and slow. It’s a gamble every time. I literally calculate 15 minutes extra every time I take a long distance train to just go from Sbahn to the long distance trains at the central station because it takes two elevators and I have a stroller with me. And with a stroller you at least can somehow unsafely (also it is forbidden) try to balance it on the escalator. If you have an electric wheelchair you can forget about that. How are these more vulnerable people supposed to get to a new train station within 15 minutes?

        • Spzi
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          17 months ago

          See, that’s where the systemic delays come in handy. No seriously, it’s a joke.

          Experiences like these also leave me with a constant feeling of fear and uncertainty.

          On the other hand, I can imagine there are circumstances when a short-notice rescheduling is physically necessary. Or very helpful, if it can prevent delays and missed connections for 5 other trains.

          I try to use the DB App and refresh it every minute while on my way to the station, to not miss any irregularity. I try to only feel safe (for the moment) when I’m in the train, be on constant alert before. Not sure why it has to be such an adventure, but here we are.

          • volvoxvsmarla
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            27 months ago

            I try to only feel safe (for the moment) when I’m in the train

            Oh boy, two weeks ago I was already in the ICE when they first announced a delay of 20 minutes when the train was supposed to leave. Then a couple of minutes later the train was cancelled and everyone had to get out. We were supposed to take the next ICE that leaves in an hour.

            Our ICE was fully booked. So were the other two ones that went the same day. It was either standing with a toddler for 4 hours or book a hotel for the night that won’t get reimbursed because theoretically, we could have taken one of the other two trains.

            You’re never safe to relax. Not even when you are already sitting in the gorgeous baby compartment.

            (The reason for the cancellation was a stupid dude who didn’t want to leave the train despite the police showing up, and he ended up not only not leaving but threatening a worker to a point that she had a mental breakdown and could not continue the journey, hence leaving a personal shortage that would not allow for the train to be operated. )

  • @narc0tic_bird@lemm.ee
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    447 months ago

    10 minutes? Ahh, if the problems with Deutsche Bahn would stop at 10 minutes late…that would almost be great.

    2 hours late, trains not coming at all, skipping stops, having to take a completely different route just so you arrive at some point, but even then it’s 6 hours late. Trains being overcrowded, air conditioning failing or not being there in the first place, seat reservation systems failing, the list goes on and on.

    Add to that that many smaller cities and especially villages have a single bus line that has one bus driving every 1-2 hours, but only until 8pm or whatever. Not only DB’s fault, but also of the local traffic association. Public transport is a complete joke in Germany. You need a car unless you live in a big city or don’t care about your sanity at all.

    More problems include train stations often being a center for criminal activity, and smaller train stations offering no security personnel whatsoever. I know many people who are afraid to travel by train, especially after dark. And they have every reason to be, as (sexual) assault (especially towards women), robbery, drug dealing activities (list goes on) are quite the reality.

    • @andresil@lemm.ee
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      87 months ago

      Also thought this when reading the article, multiple times I’ve had entire journies turn into a nightmare because of train not coming, 2/3/more hour late trains, and yeah local transport is a joke sometimes. The worst is the state of some the stations, Bonn is like a fucking drug camp sometimes and it seems that police and transport staff won’t do anything to make it safer or better

    • @kugel7c@feddit.de
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      37 months ago

      I somewhat harshly disagree with this sentiment, sure most of the problems you mention are real, although I always feel like criminal danger in central/western Europe is just not really something anyone should let impact their live decisions, as it’s generally so rare –

      Punctuality is very much a mixed bag regional and S trains are usually pretty good here in Köln, there are delays of course but half of them seem to be idiots walking on the tracks which I don’t really attribute to DB.

      Long distance is a bit worse than that, you could definitely say delays are common and sometimes very long delays occur as well.

      And communication is usually pretty atrocious. Although this usually can be sidestepped somewhat by just reading the app carefully and at least occasionally reading the upcoming construction notices.

      But and this is the actually important thing that makes it all worth it, they run a ton of service, to a just insane number of stations. You can legitimately use it for all your travel if you just impose a time buffer about as long as the initial trip. From everywhere to everywhere in this country, usually for under 50€ if you just plan the slightest bit, or with the Deutschlandticket travel regio.

      The amount of stations we have in towns of under 50k people might be among the highest in the world. The amount of people within x km of a station with regular (usually at worst hourly) service is enormous. The amount of track per person both in the country as well as company is staggering.

      It’s nice and easy to call DB a joke but I think it’s far from it, public transit especially in urban areas, where as we all know most people live, is nearly world class in terms of coverage. You don’t need a car anywhere in Germany if you don’t want to and that’s a great thing, sure if you are impatient or get stressed when things outside of your control have impact on you, you might want a car but it’s very much not a requirement. Unless you almost pretty specifically have your home or work as far away from civilization as you can get.

      DB has much more potential and probably should be much better than it is but it’s far from bad even. Some of the arguments brought against it also in your comment will just read like old anti transit propaganda for the car companies, wether rehashed out of habit or ignorance. Please at least get your mostly valid criticism and don’t aim it at DB but the car lobby, and 20+ years of neolib transit policy that’s responsible for this situation.

      I knew 14 year old girls who would use the trains in the middle of the night and I have used them for all my transport that’s not on a bike for the last 6 years. And I like the system. Your comment reads like pure anti transit propaganda to me. Even though some of it I’d say myself as a jokey complaint.

      To end on a lighthearted note, at some point in time I borded a train (45mins delayed although for me it was essentially 15 mins early in a hourly schedule)heading for Aachen from Köln Deutz. After heading successfully through Hbf and Ehrenfeld we found ourselves on the track heading onto the südbrücke back to the eastern side of the rhine, with our train conductor being about as confused that we were now rolling through the same station i borded the train at, as everyone else on the train. All in all we ended up almost another hour behind.

      • @narc0tic_bird@lemm.ee
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        17 months ago

        Everything I mentioned in my comment is either something I experienced myself (multiple times), or I directly know someone who experienced it. If it reads like propaganda to you, I don’t know what to say. It is what it is.

        Punctuality is very much a mixed bag regional and S trains are usually pretty good here in Köln, there are delays of course but half of them seem to be idiots walking on the tracks which I don’t really attribute to DB.

        Köln is what I’d say is a big (enough) city where you probably don’t need a car, because public transport inside the city is at least decent.

        But and this is the actually important thing that makes it all worth it, they run a ton of service, to a just insane number of stations. You can legitimately use it for all your travel if you just impose a time buffer about as long as the initial trip. From everywhere to everywhere in this country, usually for under 50€ if you just plan the slightest bit, or with the Deutschlandticket travel regio.

        The amount of stations we have in towns of under 50k people might be among the highest in the world. The amount of people within x km of a station with regular (usually at worst hourly) service is enormous. The amount of track per person both in the country as well as company is staggering.

        Sure, most cities have a station. But there are a lot of small towns or villages which have 1-2 bus stops at best. Where I live (~4,000 people), there’s a bus coming about every hour, starting from 6:30am and ending at 8pm (!). Good luck going out in the evening when you have to be back before 8pm. I guess you could walk from the next bigger town, but that takes around an hour and after a busy day, you might not fancy walking for that long. In this bigger town there’s a train station, and no it’s not safe. It’s a place where illegal activities are happening on a regular basis once it’s dark outside.

        It’s not about comparing DB to the rest of the world. You need to compare public transit to cars/car infrastructure and then provide something that’s at least as good if you want more people to use it. And where I live, it’s not even close. Having to plan an entire trip multiple weeks ahead of time to get acceptable pricing is ridiculous and doesn’t always work. Get sick? Unlucky, either no refunds at all or they’re very expensive. And “Flex” pricing is ridiculously expensive, you can pay 150,-€ (and more) for a 2nd class ticket across the country. Sure, you can get a BahnCard 50 or whatever, but then it’s still 75,-€ plus the cost of the BahnCard. Even when you’re driving the car alone, fuel + wear and tear is usually cheaper than one “Flex” ticket. Traveling with 2-4 persons and you need to get 2-4 tickets, I found a route across the country (~470 km) where one ticket is 120,-€, so 240-480,-€ with 2-4 persons. 470 km in a car would cost 94,-€ in fuel assuming the car consumes 10 l/100 km (which it shouldn’t) and 1 l costs 2,-€, and then you have 26,-€ left to 120,-€ for car maintenance caused by these 470 km. Travel with 2-4 persons and it’s way worse. Sure, you don’t have to drive yourself and that’s a big thing, but the price gap is huge once you’re 2 or more people, and you’d easily arrive two hours earlier by car, and that’s assuming nothing goes wrong on the trip by train.

        Another simple example would be the dentist for me. With a car, I drive 15 minutes (on a Sunday drive) to my dentist, checkup takes say 15 minutes as well, and back I go in another 15 minutes. 45 minutes is all it takes, I can basically do that during my lunch break. With public transport, I’d have to take the bus which takes 40 minutes (!) to the target location, add 5 minutes of walking time (so 45 minutes), and assuming the dentist takes longer than 8 minutes I’d have to wait about 40 minutes for the next bus to arrive, then take the bus back which takes another 45 minutes including walking back home. So 130 minutes, and that’s assuming that the appointment perfectly aligns with the bus schedule. That’s a huge difference of 45 vs 130+ minutes. I kind of value my time, you know? When traveling by car, I also have the option of quickly grabbing takeaway lunch on my way back to work.

        Trust me, if it wouldn’t limit me so much and cost so much time to go public transport only where I live, I’d be the first person to do it. I don’t enjoy driving my car, I see it more as a necessity. I use trains for longer distances (when going on vacation or whatever), and if it all works out, it’s an okay experience. Sure, it takes two hours longer and it’s a bit more expensive even when traveling alone (I’m rather spontaneous most of the time), but I personally don’t mind that as long as it at least works as advertised. But often, it doesn’t.

        I did a city trip with a few friends of mine this year where we travelled to a new city almost every day for about 10 days. We planned it in a way so that cities were no more than 2,5 hours apart. In theory…in practice, while that worked sometimes, we had two occasions where it took over 6 hours instead to arrive. Kind of sucks when you only have this same day to spend in the city, and it already starts to get dark when you arrive. On the trips that were in time, many trains were still completely overloaded and had non-working air conditioning, sometimes with 30 degrees C outside (you can imagine how hot it was inside the train). With a rather tight schedule and after days and days of travel, you’d sure enjoy getting a seat in a train, and working air conditioning.

        Anyways, enough about my experiences. Great if it works for you, but as I said, if you/they want people to switch up the way they do things, there needs to be an alternative that’s at least as good, but preferably better.

        • @kugel7c@feddit.de
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          07 months ago

          Your experience might be true, but to frame it as representative or real in any general way like you insinuate with;

          if you/they want people to switch up the way they do things, there needs to be an alternative that’s at least as good, but preferably better.

          is just disingenuous, you admit you live in a place with 4000 people, yet still you complain about transit. It fundamentally doesn’t matter because you are in the last couple of percent in terms of transit viability.

          That’s why it reads like propaganda because while the examples you give are likely true, the overall picture you paint is significantly worse than the lived experience of most people that use the system, because you consciously or accidentally collect examples that make it seem dysfunctional. It’s mismanaged and it could be much better but it isn’t dysfunctional.

          • @narc0tic_bird@lemm.ee
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            27 months ago

            You brought up towns <50k having train stations, and I was basically saying that simply because there is a train station (in the town next to mine, which has >20k population) doesn’t mean it’s great relying on it. I then also went ahead and gave you examples of bad experiences I had completely independent of where I live.

            What you say about “the picture I paint” is something I could’ve said about you the other way around. If I’m in the minority, how come there’s so much negativity towards public transit, and yes, also from people living in big cities? This leads to nowhere.

            The part you quoted is literally how people work, they pick what they think is best for them based on their own experiences.

            Anyways, I won’t elaborate further. I simply wanted to share my experience without having to justify how it’s not “disingenuous” or “propaganda”.

    • @Alexc@lemmings.world
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      57 months ago

      That’s positively early on trains around Toronto where I live… The schedule is merely a guideline

    • @DrunkenPirate@feddit.de
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      47 months ago

      Indeed there are worse countries. I think of Cuba for example, where it’s more about „the train arrives this day.“

      However, in German culture the notion of timeliness and efficiency is very strong. Our expectations to our railroad is high as it was quite on time the last decades. And it perfectly fits into our recent feeling of become mediocre as a country. There‘re so many challenges that where Germany falls behind other countries and isn’t in the top 10 anymore.

      Part of the real causes of this trouble is that the railroad was privatized 30 years ago. Together with Deutsche Post (now DHL) and Deutsche Telekom. All those three went international. Two with success. Deutsche Bahn expanded into road freight quite heavily as there was opportunity to grow and money to make. They took the money granted for the rails and invested it into trucks. The German government is now in discussions to unbundle the company and split it into small „tasks“ so they focus on their main business. The Bahn deserved to be cut down into pieces. Not well managed.

      • @wahming@monyet.cc
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        17 months ago

        Part of the real causes of this trouble is that the railroad was privatized 30 years ago

        That’s the exact opposite of what the article claims

        • @DrunkenPirate@feddit.de
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          27 months ago

          Yes and No. It’s a stupid privatization they did.

          They privatized the railroad, but never sold some stocks. Now, it’s a private company owned by the state and subsidized by tax payers.

  • @muntedcrocodile@lemmy.world
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    167 months ago

    Hahaha 10minutes what a travesty hpw abput u come to australia where u will be lucky to see a train and if a bus is 30minutes late its one time.

  • @sir_pronoun@lemmy.world
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    117 months ago

    Can we please appreciate that Detlef Neuss, chairman of the train passenger lobby, looks EXACTLY how we would like a chairman of the train passenger lobby to look

  • AutoTL;DRB
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    47 months ago

    This is the best summary I could come up with:


    “The situation has severely deteriorated in recent years,” said Detlef Neuss, chair of the passenger lobby group Pro Bahn, standing outside Cologne’s main station, in the shadow of the city’s gothic cathedral with its distinctive twin spires.

    Earlier this month, after weeks of speculation over the future of Britain’s planned HS2 high-speed rail link from Birmingham to Manchester, the prime minister finally announced that the northern leg was to be scrapped.

    In an excoriating special report published earlier this year, the public audit body did not mince its words as it sounded the alarm, warning that the company responsible for running the national rail network, its stations and signals, along with many long-distance and local trains, risked becoming a “bottomless pit” for taxpayer money.

    Despite paying some €4,400 for an annual season ticket, in recent months Winter has had to put up with a weeks-long closure of the track between Wolfsburg and Berlin for upgrades, coupled with delays, cancelled trains and lack of staff.

    The company, formed from the existing West and East German railways, was freed from previous debts with the idea that it would be able, in time, to become profitable, with the goal of boosting Germany’s GDP and floating on the stock market.

    The governing agreement struck by the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals in late 2021 committed them to doubling the capacity of passenger services by 2030, while setting a target for 25% of freight to be carried by rail by that date, and electrifying more railway lines amid attempts to meet climate goals.


    The original article contains 1,887 words, the summary contains 258 words. Saved 86%. I’m a bot and I’m open source!

    • @wahming@monyet.cc
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      87 months ago

      Read the article instead of guessing wildly. It mentions lack of infrastructure maintenance funding is impacting all their transport networks, including the highway systems.