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Deutsche Bahn says sabotage behind massive train disruption

October 8, 2022

The German rail operator blamed cable sabotage for a major train disruption and said security authorities had taken over the investigation. It had earlier reported that the "technical fault" had been repaired.

A passenger enters an Intercity-Express train in Beriln
Long-distance train journeys were disrupted at the start of the weekendImage: Carsten Koall/picture alliance/dpa

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said on Saturday that intentional interference was the cause of disruptions in the train network in northern Germany.

"Sabotage to cables that were vital for train traffic meant Deutsche Bahn had to stop trains running in the north this morning for nearly three hours," Deutsche Bahn said.

The German rail operator said security authorities had taken over the investigation. There was no immediate information on potential suspects. Investigators, however, said the communications cables were cut at one location outside Berlin and another in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. 

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said authorities "have to assume intentional acts" were behind the rail disruption as cables were severed at two locations. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing added, "It is clear that this was a targeted and malicious action."

What do we know about the rail disruptions?

Earlier on Saturday, Deutsche Bahn reported a "technical fault on the line" after trains in large parts of northern Germany were stopped.

"The reason for that is the failure of the digital train radio communication system," the company said.

Hours later, the Deutsche Bahn reported that the issue had been addressed, but further service cancelations and disruptions were still possible.

Cables for DB's communication network had been severed in two locations, unnamed security sources told Der Spiegel magazine. The magazine initially noted that it wasn’t clear whether the cut was at the hands of a saboteur or if it was accidental damage due to construction work.

How was the rail service impacted?

The problem has affected trains in large parts of northern Germany as well as some international routes, DB said. 

Travel to and from Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony in the direction of Kassel- Wilhelmshöhe, Berlin and North Rhine Westphalia had been suspended. 

The high-speed ICE trains between Berlin, Hanover and NRW were also impacted by the outage.

Some international routes were affected as well. Round trains from and to Berlin via Amsterdam are completely canceled. Meanwhile, trains from and to the Danish cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus would end/start in Padborg, southern Denmark.

Train delays and cancellations have become a more common occurrence with DB services in recent years.

However, the latest disruption comes after reported acts of sabotage targeting the vital Nord Stream gas pipeline last month, which prompted NATO and the European Union to sound the alarm on protecting critical infrastructure.

rmt/dj (AFP, dpa)