Rights for rail passengers during severe weather conditions

Photo by Joël de VriendGeneral passenger rights apply in the event of delays and train cancellations. Deutsche Bahn often responds to exceptional weather conditions with special compensation - including the current storm "Xandra".Those who leave their cars behind during storms have to rely on local and long-distance transport. If violent winds or other exceptional weather conditions thwart the plans of train passengers, they enjoy passenger rights.

In the event of delays, long-distance and local rail companies are then generally obliged to compensate - unlike airlines, which can invoke force majeure.

This is stipulated in European guidelines on passenger rights, says Beatrix Kaschel from the local transport conciliation office of the NRW consumer center. In view of exceptional weather conditions, Deutsche Bahn often grants additional special compensation - including in the case of the current storm "Xandra".

If passengers have planned their long-distance journey for Thursday (17.02.2022) or Friday (18.02.2022), they can use their booked ticket flexibly from Wednesday (16.02.2022) up to and including seven days after the end of the disruption or cancel it free of charge.You can therefore start your train journey earlier, and any train or day commitment is also lifted.

According to Deutsche Bahn, seat reservations can also be canceled free of charge. To cancel tickets booked online, rail customers use a goodwill form.They can cancel "Flexpreis" tickets booked online with a daily commitment themselves via their customer account. The goodwill provision of Deutsche Bahn does not apply to the city function of tickets.

In addition, the general passenger rights apply in the event of delays or train cancellations: If there is a risk of at least 20 minutes delay at the destination, the passenger can change to a faster connection - if there is one.

If the passenger switches from local to a more expensive long-distance connection, such as an ICE, he or she must pay the surcharge in advance, but can have it refunded later. Exceptions apply to heavily discounted tickets such as the "Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket", the "Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket" or "LänderTickets", to which this rule does not apply, according to Deutsche Bahn.

It is important to distinguish between expected and actual delays at the destination station. This is because the amount of compensation is determined according to passenger rights.

If the train is expected to be delayed by 60 minutes or more or is cancelled altogether, the passenger can claim full reimbursement of both the ticket price paid and the reservation costs.

If the passenger is already on the move and there is a risk of an hour or more delay at the destination station, the customer has a choice: If the journey has become pointless, he can return to the starting station and have the ticket refunded in full.

However, if he decides to break off his journey en route, only the proportionate fare to the last station on the way is returned.

If the rail customer travels through to the destination station in the event of a delay, the railroad will refund the fare on a staggered basis. From a delay of 60 minutes at the destination station, rail passengers can expect compensation of 25 percent of the fare paid, and from 120 minutes, 50 percent.

It is important to know this: If the customer has purchased a round-trip ticket, compensation is only calculated for the one-way trip, i.e., on the basis of half the fare. And: Individual compensation amounts of less than 4 euros are not paid out at all. But it is also possible to submit several delays collectively - interesting especially for holders of season tickets for local transport.

In order to get your money after train cancellations and delays, forms must be filled out. The corresponding form for compensation by mail can be obtained at Deutsche Bahn travel centers or from service personnel on the train, where you can have the delay of 60 minutes or more confirmed in writing in the appropriate field.

If the ticket was purchased online via the Deutsche Bahn customer account, customers can alternatively also submit the claim online.

However, a different legal situation will take effect from next year. "From 2023, passenger rights will no longer apply in the event of force majeure," says Beatrix Kaschel from the Local Transport Conciliation Board.Rail companies would then be exempted from their compensation obligation for delays or train cancellations "caused by extraordinary circumstances such as extreme weather conditions or major natural disasters." However, the minimum compensation for delays, which concerns the aforementioned 25- and 50-percent regulations, would remain unchanged.

 


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