Train travel in Europe – train delays and cancellations: who pays the additional costs? – Cash register espresso


For the sake of the climate, many people travel by train instead of by plane. But who pays for missed connections and outages?

Train delay due to a defect: A Swiss family booked a trip with the TGV to Barcelona via Basel and Montpellier at the SBB counter. But the train to Montpellier stopped due to a defect and arrived more than two hours late. Of course the connection to Barcelona was long gone. In the end, the family reached Barcelona a total of five hours late. The European Passenger Rights stipulate that in such a case a fee of 50 percent is due for the entire route. But the SBB says it will only reimburse the delayed TGV leg from Basel to Montpellier.

Train canceled due to a landslide: In the second case, a young woman wants to take a train and bus to Belgrade for a concert. Their ÖBB night train from Zurich to Vienna is canceled due to a landslide. The woman organizes an alternative connection via Munich the following day, for which only 1st class tickets are available. Because of the outage, she missed a hotel night in Belgrade and her connections with the Flixbus. She also has to spend an unscheduled overnight stay in Budapest.

Who pays for the additional costs? In the first case, it is clear to travel law expert Reto Ineichen: If the entire trip was purchased at the SBB counter, the rail company would also have to pay for the entire route, according to European passenger rights. The SBB, on the other hand, tells the SRF consumer magazine “Espresso” that it has this in its system Small print regulated differently. However, railways would have to explicitly point out such an exception to customers at the counter and online and be able to prove it. Because this is often difficult, it is worth insisting in such cases.

When are additional costs not covered? In the event of a train cancellation due to a landslide, no one will reimburse the additional costs incurred. The train company only guarantees transport from A to B. In the event of a delay or cancellation, passengers are responsible for connecting connections themselves. In the event of cancellations, travel insurance will only cover you, but in the event of delays it will usually not pay out. However, the responsible railway company must refund the ticket for the canceled train.

When do rail companies pay? If you get stranded in one place because of a train delay and can no longer get on the train, the train company has to pay for you to stay in a hotel with breakfast. Or continue your journey by taxi.

What to do if you miss the connection? If you miss a connecting train due to a train delay, you can in most cases be rebooked onto the next available train at no additional cost. 16 European railway companies have signed this “Agreement on onward travel in international rail passenger transport (AJC)”. The SBB is offering their website a good overview of national and international passenger rights.

What to do if you have problems while traveling by train? It is important to get written confirmation of what happened from the train attendant or at the counter at your destination. For example: delay, cancellation or missing berth compartment on a night train. Then report the case to the railway company where you bought the ticket. Attention: This usually has to be done within three months.

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