DB train strike: Which trains are affected and how can I get a refund?

DB train strike: Which trains are affected and how can I get a refund?

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, the head of the German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) Claus Weselsky has announced that the union will no longer adhere to the rules of confirming that Deutsche Bahn drivers will strike at least 48 hours in advance. Unless an agreement is met, Germany is expected to face many sudden, and highly-disruptive train strikes in the coming weeks.

Here’s how transport in Germany is likely to be affected and how you can get a refund or reimbursement for your cancelled and delayed Deutsche Bahn journeys. For information about which services are disrupted during the GDL strike from March 12-13, check here.

What transportation is affected by the German transport strike?

All trains run by Deutsche Bahn, including long-distance ICE, IC, EC, Nightjet, regional and S-Bahn services in all German cities, are affected by strike action. U-Bahns, trams and buses across Germany are not affected but will be very crowded and vulnerable to delays during strike days.

In response to such strikes, DB institutes its “emergency timetable”. However, the remaining, limited DB services are likely to be cancelled or at least severely disrupted.

Though the GDL is the smaller of the two unions at DB, EVG being the biggest, the fact that a high number of GDL members are train drivers means that the union can greatly disrupt transportation during a strike. During the GDL strike in November, 80 percent of long-distance trains in Germany were cancelled.

Should I travel during the GDL strike?

To work around a strike DB often adds carriages to the trains that are operating on the emergency timetable. However, the international company warns that even passengers with a ticket cannot be guaranteed a ride.

Instead, travellers are urged to delay their journey until after the strike is over or preferably even a few days after the end of the strike, once the post-strike rush has subsided. 

Travelling during the Deutsche Bahn strike

If you are still determined to brave the disruption, it is best to check the DB apps shortly before leaving for the station, since even emergency timetable services may also be cancelled at the last minute. Calling the DB strike hotline on 08000 99 66 33 in advance of your planned journey is also advisable.

Inevitably, many of the trains that do make it to their intended destination during the strike period will be late. As with the regular timetable, if you arrive late to your final destination during the strike you are entitled to compensation. If you are 60 minutes late or more you can get 25 percent of your original ticket cost reimbursed, and if you are 120 minutes late or more you are entitled to a 50 percent reimbursement. You can apply for this reimbursement online here.

How to delay your DB train journey or get a refund

If you decide to delay your journey or cancel it all altogether you have some options.

If you booked a ticket for a train which was scheduled to run during a strike period you can use your ticket to travel on any emergency timetable train to get to your final destination, even if you use an alternative route or different combination of trains than initially planned. 

If you don’t want to face the emergency timetable, DB has also said that anyone who has a ticket to travel during a strike period can postpone their journey until after the strike, for free.

And if you would like to give up on your journey altogether it is also possible to cancel your trip online at no extra cost. Customers who cancel their journey can opt to get a refund or voucher in return.

Why are German train drivers on strike?

In November 2023, an industrial peace agreement between DB and the GDL came to an end, meaning that it was time for the two organisations to reenter pay negotiations.

Like workers in many other industries over the autumn and winter of 2023 / 24, GDL members working at Deutsche Bahn are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. They are demanding three specific things: 555 euros more for employees each month, a 3.000 euro bonus to offset inflation price rises and a reduction in working hours from 38 hours to 35 per week with no cut to wages. If they are accepted, these terms would be applied to 10.000 employees and would be applicable for 12 months. 

Instead, Deutsche Bahn has offered a gradual 11-percent pay increase over three years, a 2.850-euro inflation bonus and a “working time choice model” from 2026, where employees could choose if they wanted to work one hour less per week for the same pay, while staff who continued to work for that hour would get a 2,7 percent pay rise.

According to figures from Deutsche Bahn, train drivers at the company currently earn between 45.000 and 56.000 euros per year depending on experience. If the company, which made a profit of 626 million euros in the first half of 2023 alone, were to meet the GDL's demands, it would cost Deutsche Bahn an estimated 96 million euros in 2024 and 66 million euros every subsequent year that the collective bargaining agreement was in place.

The series of warning strikes from the GDL has also been punctuated by media reports that Deutsche Bahn bosses received millions of euros' worth of bonuses for 2022, despite chronic train delays and disruption for passengers.

Thumb image credit: Markus Mainka /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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