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Euro 2024: Deutsche Bahn apologizes to fans for late trains

June 26, 2024

Germany's Deutsche Bahn apologized to fans for late trains and overcrowded conditions during Euro 2024 in Germany. A senior board member admitted DB had not been "offering the quality that everyone deserves."

A large crowd of supporters outside the Berlin Olympic Stadium S-Bahn station before the game between the Netherlands and Austria
Crowded stations, late trains, long queues exposed to the afternoon sun — all common sights during the Euro competitionImage: Juergen Engler/nordphoto GmbH/nordphoto GmbH/picture alliance

The Deutsche Bahn (DB) board member responsible for long-distance travel, Michael Peterson, apologized in the Wednesday edition of Germany's top-selling Bild newspaper for delays and cancellations inconveniencing thousands of football supporters during the opening phase of Euro 2024 championship. 

"We understand the dissatisfaction and criticism from fans," Peterson told Bild. "Deutsche Bahn is not currently offering the quality that everyone deserves. But at the same time we are doing everything possible to bring passengers reliably to their destinations." 

Delayed, overcrowded and canceled trains have led to fans being late to games, or sometimes even missing the matches altogether.

Fans pack on to an overcrowded local train after the game between the Netherlands and Austria
The competition was always sure to test the public transport network's punctuality — and its capacityImage: dts-Agentur/picture alliance

DB derided as Netherlands plays Austria

On Monday, as the Netherlands faced Austria in Berlin, train problems drew public comments from Netherlands' coach Ronald Koeman. 

Koeman has said in the past that he prefers to travel on high-speed trains, not private planes, with teams. But this was only possible in one direction on Monday, he lamented. 

"We can't get back after the game, because there are no more trains taking us to Wolfsburg," said Koeman. "Germany is claiming to be hosting a sustainable European championship. But it is not managing it."

German transport struggles to cope with the Euro crowds

Meanwhile, Austrian television captured footage of frustrated fans on a train that had stopped several times during its journey, chanting slightly more rude words to the effect of "Deutsche Bahn is on its backside" to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In." 

Many Netherlands supporters also crowded Berlin train stations well ahead of kickoff, despite searing heat, hoping to compensate for possible delays.  

Ex-captain Lahm says Germany 'failed' 

But the troubles on the tracks had been noticed in Germany and beyond long before Monday's match. 

The New York Times ran a feature late last week headlined: "In Germany, a Tournament Runs Smoothly, but the Trains Do Not." 

Another international football journalist, Miguel Delaney, commented on the very opening day (amid travel issues in Munich for Scotland and Germany fans) that he was "now beginning to see why the German population so critical of DB." He has continued to highlight the problems since then.

German diplomats had also noted and apologized to supporters for the issue, while former Germany captain Philipp Lahm, now the tournament director for Euro 2024 with the German football association (DFB), criticized the performance on Monday. 

"I think we have failed as a country to work a little on infrastructure in recent decades," said Lahm, who himself arrived late for the game between Ukraine and Slovakia last Friday. 

"P.S., dear Deutsche Bahn, on Sunday we must arrive on time in Frankfurt with our [Germany] team, we are confident that we will manage that," he said online afterwards. Lahm did make it to that game punctually. 

DFB, DB trying to assure improved service in later stages

According to Lahm, the football association was working with Deutsche Bahn to try to improve performance for the remainder of the competition, even though the problem "should have been worked on long before." 

Speaking with Bild, Deutsche Bahn's Peterson also tried to reassure passengers, thanking them for their "patience and understanding" when "it sometimes doesn't work as desired." 

He said 150,000 Bahn employees were "giving it their all, so that it works," and noted how "more than 5 million travelers have been on our [high-speed, long-distance] ICE and IC trains since the start of the tournament."

Meanwhile, Turkey's team on Wednesday chartered a flight for its relatively short 150-kilometer (roughly 95-mile) journey from Hannover to Hamburg for the game against the Czech Republic. It wasn't immediately clear whether the trains' performance during the competition played any role in this decision, but environmental groups criticized the move as "nonsensical" and "unacceptable."

A departures board at Stuttgart main train station during a DB strike, warning of impacted services
Euro 2024 has brought international focus to Germany's rail problemsImage: picture alliance/Panama Pictures

Before the competition, Deutsche Bahn said it wanted to put its best foot forward following a difficult few months of labor disputes and strikes.

But the head of the German rail lobby group Pro Bahn said that, if anything, the high demand during the competition had "instead underlined how many deficits there are" at DB. 

Detlef Neuss told the Rheinische Post newspaper if the whole world "is making fun of our rail system, I hope that this is a wake-up call for our politicians." 

Hallam Mark Kommentarbild App
Mark Hallam News and current affairs writer and editor with DW since 2006.@marks_hallam