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German Press Review: Compensation for Late Trains

German editorial writers on Wednesday saw plenty to criticize in the service provided by the German national railway company, Deutsche Bahn – despite its decision to compensate customers for delays.

The Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in Halle was very excited. "At last! Passengers who have to wait hours for their train, or who miss their connection because of a delay, will in future, get at least some of their money back," the paper wrote, maintaining that this is not only good for the consumer but also for the railway, and that it will motivate the train drivers to be more on time in future.

But the Mitteldeutsche is pretty much alone in its enthusiasm. Most other papers criticized the compensation arrangements while taking the opportunity to slam Deutsche Bahn for its inefficiency. "Trains have become more expensive, less frequent, and often far too late, " complained the Ostthüringer Zeitung in Gera, "and the compromise between the government and the Deutsche Bahn won’t change any of that." The eastern German paper argued that if a fine is to be effective it has to hurt, and it added, it will still be cheaper for the rail company to pay 20 percent of the ticket price in compensation than for it to make improvements to its timetable.

The Rhein-Neckar Zeitung in Heidelberg claimed 20 percent is not enough. "Anyone who misses their appointment in Munich or Hamburg because their train was late won’t be comforted by a mere 10 euros," it remarked. But the paper pointed out that on the other hand, "you don’t demand a refund on your car tax if you get stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway."

"It doesn’t matter how generous the compensation is," wrote the Stuttgarter Zeitung. "We’d far rather have trains that ran on time." The paper believes that, given its terrible reputation, this has to be Deutsche Bahn’s first priority – which means it needs modern signal technology, new trains, and fewer closures due to repair work. The paper said if the government cuts investment this will inevitably result in trains being late. It would be a major success if wind and weather were to be the only reasons for delays – factors which the Deutsche Bahn can’t do anything about, wrote the paper.