Deutsche Bahn, the German rail operator, paid a record 132.8 million euros (144.2 million U.S. dollars) in compensation to passengers in 2023 due to train delays.
“Rail passengers benefit from the most generous regulations of any mode of transportation in terms of passenger rights,” said a statement released Friday by the company. In 2022, Deutsche Bahn paid out 92.7 million euros in compensation.
As required by German law, Deutsche Bahn refunds passengers a quarter of the fare for delays of one hour or more, and half the fare for delays of two hours or more on its services. In the case of train cancellations due to strikes, passengers in Germany can claim a full refund of the ticket price.
Last year, unpunctuality rates went up further, with only 64 percent of long-distance destinations being reached on time. The company attributed this mainly to short-term construction activities when presenting the figures. Delays of less than six minutes were not factored in.
Deutsche Bahn has just begun a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s rail network. By 2030, 40 particularly busy sections of track will be closed, some for months at a time. The German government is investing 40 billion euros in this project over the next years.
Following four strikes in the rail sector last year, train drivers stopped work this Tuesday evening. The strike, which will last a total of 136 hours over six days and 144 hours in freight transport, is the longest strike Deutsche Bahn has ever seen.
The core demand of the GDL, the smaller of two rail unions in Germany, is a reduction in the working week from 38 to 35 hours without loss of pay, which is deemed by Deutsche Bahn too high.
With negotiations appearing deadlocked, some politicians are calling for external support. The strike is “reaching unacceptable dimensions,” said Minister of Transport Volker Wissing on Wednesday. “We now need an arbitration procedure, or at least mediation,” he added.