How do you know where DB Trains call?

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Belperpete, 4 Dec 2018 at 21:45.

  1. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    I recently travelled to Cologne, flying to Dusseldorf and catching the train from there to Cologne. Prior to travelling, I used the DB web-site to look up the times of trains from Dusseldorf Airport station to Cologne South station, which was convenient for my hotel. When I got to Dusseldorf Airport station, I found my train on the departures sheet, but in the list of stations at which the train would be calling, there was no mention of Cologne South. Likewise when the train arrived, the departure screen made no mention of Cologne South. I decided to get on the train, and change at the main Cologne Dom station. There was a list of stations that the train would be calling at on a screen at the far-end of the carriage, but before I could read it, it changed to show a pretty picture of a loco, and remained showing that for the rest of the journey - very helpful! The train called at a number of other stations before Cologne that hadn't been on either the poster or the departure screen, so I decided to chance it and stayed on after Cologne Dom, and fortunately the train duly stopped at the South station.

    How on earth do DB expect people to know where their trains are calling if neither the departure sheets nor departure screens show all the stations?

    OK, you could say that if you travel on the London Underground, the departure boards only show the train's final destination. But then they have plenty of line diagrams and maps all over the stations and trains to show where the train calls on the way. I could find nothing like that at Dusselforf Flughafen Station, or on the train.
     
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  3. LeeLivery

    LeeLivery Member

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    I had a similar problem at Berlin Hbf. It was only until I looked it up on a ticket machine I knew which train to catch.
     
  4. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    The answer is that it is a different approach. DB's network is near enough fully "im Takt", which means everything is on a clockface pattern, which means an IC12 (or whatever) will call at the same places every hour (or every two) whenever it runs - a bit like bus routes, where you similarly won't see a list of where it stops. Maps and the likes will show you where the train calls, and you can note the train number from the journey planner or paper timetable, or the TVM can print you an itinerary. Normally the on-board screens do show all calls, though, when working.

    Unlike the UK, it's more the case that exceptions will be shown - so you might see on the screens "Haelt nicht in Irgendeinestadt"[1] if there's an out of course non-call, rather than a list of where it *does* call. And like on the Tube, a Regionalbahn might just show "Haelt ueberall"[2] rather than listing the stops out.

    Rarely is the UK timetable consistent enough for this to work.

    [1] "Does not call at Anytown".
    [2] "Calls at all stations".
     
  5. D6700

    D6700 Member

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    As well as both of the useful replies above, if you've got a modern phone, the "DB Navigator" app is very useful for such information. If data is an issue whilst abroad, Czech Railways "Muj Vlak" can work offline, with many European timetables downloadable via wifi or when you do have a data connection. Both apps can do English, making things nice and easy.
     
  6. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    What maps? As I said, I could find no maps or line diagrams anywhere at Dusseldorf Flughafen station showing where the trains call.

    The TVMs were singularly unhelpful. Agreed they had a Union Jack "button" on the screen. However, I had hoped that this might do something slightly more helpful than just light a small red light on the screen! I attempted to buy my ticket with the TVM in German, but when I chose my destination station from its list, it just came up with an error message in German that I could not understand. So I am afraid the chances of me getting it to print an itinerary were nil. The VRS ticket machines in town, on the other hand, do have an English button that actually works, and were fairly simple to use - except that they don't accept notes. So if you are a tourist that has just arrived with only notes, you are a bit stuffed. Both the DB and VRS ticket machines are also incredibly slow: if there is someone ahead of you, you spend ages waiting for them, and queues rapidly built up at the airport station TVMs. The first time I used one of the machines in town, after it displayed its "printing tickets" message and then froze, I had got to the point of deciding that something had gone wrong and started walking away before it eventually condescended to spit out the ticket. I soon learnt that this wait was normal.

    There was no WIFI anywhere on Dusseldorf Flughafen station, so no chance of using anything internet-based if you are still waiting for your mobile to set-up with the local network.

    Considering that Dusseldorf Flughafen is used by a considerable number of tourists, the station is remarkably tourist unfriendly. If you don't already know which train to catch before you get to the station, you won't find much there to help you find out. Not that Cologne is much better, but that is another story.
     
  7. dutchflyer

    dutchflyer Member

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    DB still believes in old-style large sheets with all arrivals=white and departures=yellow on all stations (or at least those it serves also itself). For long trip on trains, they state ALL stoppingpoints till a round circle with dot in, after that only the main ones. Also in general the main IC/ICE trains=-cost more! only serve the main stations. In this area there are RB=regional, doing all stops along their outes and RE=express, doing mian stops only, more as ICE would. Its INside NRW land, and this has execllent all-line+all station maps, also in all its local trains, showing the normal stopping stations for all the lines-you may have noted that they all have byus-type route-nrs and in DE also names.
     
  8. JonathanP

    JonathanP Member

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    From the description, you were travelled on a regional train. In Germany, unlike in the UK, numbered "lines" are used to indicate the stopping pattern of the route.

    The map of regional services in the Nordrhein-Westfalen area is available here: https://www.zws-online.de/fahrplaene-liniennetz/strecken-und-liniennetz/regionalverkehrsplan-nrw/
    In this case you can fairly easily determine that the direct line linking Düsseldorf Flughafen and Köln Süd is the RE5. So any regular traveller would know that they just need to get the first train labelled as the "RE5", regardless of what time of day it was, and providing full stopping pattern information for every departure is not so important.

    Of course, if there are no copies of the map posted up at the station, that's not at all helpful for travellers new to the region. If it helps, printed copies of the map are freely available in Deutsche Bahn travel centres in the region, and for future visits, you know now to to check which line to catch, as opposed to the exact departure time, before you leave.

    It's a tradeoff between information overload and requiring too much knowledge from the passengers I guess. My memories of trying to catch trains from London Waterloo are of lengthy periods standing in front of the enormous departures board scanning, scanning, and scanning through the list of stops to try to find the next train that stopped at the station I wanted. Much quicker to just to check for the "RE5"!
     
    Last edited: 5 Dec 2018 at 09:50
  9. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    That seems surprising - is the station undergoing work at present or something?
     
  10. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    Fortunately I had looked up the train times before I left the UK, and so I knew that I wanted an RE5. However, when I got to Dusseldorf Flughafen, and found the next RE5 on the yellow departure sheets, I found that it did not show Koeln Sud on the list of stopping points. This seemed to be confirmed by the platform departure screen also not showing Sud as one of the stopping points. There were posters up about engineering works taking place that week, which led me to suspect that perhaps this might be why the RE5 might not be stopping at Koeln Sud.

    As you say, I now know that you need to check what train you are going to catch before you set off for the station. But that is not very helpful for those who have to revise their travel plans at short notice, e.g. due to disruption.

    I can accept that showing all the calling points for every local train on the yellow departure sheet may be impractical. And I now know to look for the circle with dot symbol. But it should surely be possible to scroll through all the calling points on the electronic platform display. (I was also surprised that the electronic display didn't give any clue about how late the train was running - it eventually turned up over 15 minutes late, after the time that the next train was due out of that platform, which of course meant that everyone had to check which train it was that had actually turned up).

    Not that I could see. Might the problem be that Flughafen is a DB station, whereas the RE5 is a VRS or NRW service, which DB have little interest in? The DB ticket machines certainly didn't seem to want to sell me a ticket for it.
     
  11. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    If engineering work had led to a non-stop at a normal stop, you'd almost certainly have had "haelt nicht in Koeln Sued" in the notes.

    The display should show delay - "etwa XX Minuten spaeter", again in the scrolling notes.

    Typically on DB TVMs "Verbund" tickets are in a different place. It doesn't matter who the operator is, its applicability is to tickets within their equivalent of a "PTE" area.
     
  12. Bigchris

    Bigchris Member

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    Personally, from considerable experience travelling around Germany, I've always founds things fairly self explanatory assuming you have a phone with you.

    Best bet would be to use the DB Journey Planner on your mobile:

    https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml

    Stick your departure or arrival time and departure and destination stations in and it will bring up services around the time you want. The "Chg" column shows how many changes you'll have to make, and it's pretty reliable that if it says 0 it's a direct service. Find the service you want with 0 changes, click "show details" of that service, and when it shows you the additional details there's an option for "Show intermediate stops".

    In your example, I've just looked for Düsseldorf Flughafen to Köln Süd for a train leaving around now, there's a 17:50 direct RE service (VRS fare), and when you click on "show details" it reveals it is RE5 which is the route number, 10527 which is the specific train number, and it calls at Köln Süd at 18:38.

    There's also the same thing in a DB app but I find the mobile website a bit more user friendly. If it's of any interest to you the DB Departure Planner is also a handy tool if you just want to see what's coming and going at any given time/place:

    https://reiseauskunft.bahn.de//bin/bhftafel.exe/en
     
  13. bspahh

    bspahh Member

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    I find the Wikivoyage pages like https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Düsseldorf pretty good for the practical details for public transport connections from an airport. You then get information about the mechanics of getting a ticket, validating it, and advice on the best routes.

    For example these will tell you about the normal trains from Arlanda to Stockholm if you don't want to use the Arlanda Express.

    In Germany it can also help to get the phone apps for the local public transport network. Google Maps does a pretty good job in most places, but sometimes the specific phone app has more detailed information on things like the precise location of a bus stop, or how to get a ticket.
     
  14. LeeLivery

    LeeLivery Member

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    Germany, of course, does everything efficiently. Even down to line speed signs.

    In the UK we're all used to double checking the calling points, I know I certainly do, even on routes I know very well despite knowing the calling patterns off the top of my head. We're used to skip-stopping, alterations, 3 different routes to the same place, etc., so seeing no calling points on a departure board can make you panic a bit. In Berlin, I matched the R number but, using UK logic, I still wanted to make sure it's calling at my destination - as I did as soon as I saw the screen onboard. It takes a while to get used to.
     
  15. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    I sympathise - the DB approach to passenger information is pre-historic. I understand how the system works - I lived in Germany for ten years and speak the language - but for anyone who comes to the system unprepared it's not helpful.

    I first came across the 'missing stations' syndrome when I went for a job interview in Ulm in 1973 - long before there was any regular interval 'Takt' service on the main lines. I flew to Munich, took the airport bus to the HBf and tried to find a train to Ulm - the flight had been delayed (it was January), the itinerary I had received from the travel agent didn't help any more and at the time I spoke no German. From the itinerary I knew that I needed a train that went to Stuttgart, but the departure boards showed only Augsburg, Stuttgart, then Mannheim (for example) and then a couple more stations before the destination.

    I did not realise that the system was to show the first stop and then only the principal towns until the destination - exactly as you found with Köln-Süd. Ulm lies between Augsburg - the first stop - and Stuttgart, the next major city, so is not shown. So I missed the next train as well...

    ...finally I found an information office (this was before the station was opened up and then there was a warren of inter-linked corridors) where the clerk explained in excellent American English (Munich being in the American Sector) which train I should take. Needless to say I arrived nearly three hours late... (but as it happened it didn't matter - I got the job!)

    The system is still not as user-friendly as it could be. Ten days ago my wife and I went to stay with relatives, and we flew to Hamburg from Heathrow. After arrival we went to the airport S-Bahn station to take the train to the HBf for the connection to Lübeck.

    There are four ticket machines placed side-by-side in the booking hall - on the opposite wall to the escalators and lifts down to the platforms. So one has to turn right when coming from the Arrivals Hall, walk to the end, buy the tickets then walk back the way one has come to reach the stairs. Really quite obvious...

    ...and the ticket machines are placed with no space between one and the next. This at an airport where most people have luggage with them - the effect is that, at most, only two out the four machines can be comfortably reached at any one time because of the bags.

    The machines are painfully slow and trying to get them to display the information needed was difficult - and my wife is native-born German. It seemed that the touch screen of the first machine we tried was misaligned with the display so one had to touch the screen below the corresponding text. In the end we gave up and tried another one which was marginally better. We couldn't get it to print two identical tickets without going through the whole process again, but eventually we managed to spend our €14.70 each. We needn't have bothered - there were no ticket checks anywhere, either going or returning.

    As others have noted - the German system is in fact quite logical and consistent. It falls down completely for the infrequent or first time traveller because there are no easily accessible descriptions of the system at the point at which one starts one's journey. It's all very well to say that this information is available on the internet - but if one doesn't know that one needs to know in advance, then that doesn't help. In your case, because Düsseldorf lies at the end of the 'Ruhr-Pott' the network of lines linking all the towns and cities is difficult to comprehend as a stranger - and easy-to-understand guides are almost impossible to find. (It's the same with the Autobahn network - the whole area from Mönchengladbach to Bielefeld is a cats-cradle of roads. One needs a SatNav to be sure of getting through if one isn't a native of the area!)

    DB AG's approach to customer service is still rooted in its civil service origins. It works on the basis that it's the customer's job to understand the system. The same approach as the Tax Office...
     
  16. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    Agreed. As I say, the TVM was so slow in dispensing my ticket that I thought it had gone wrong, and had started to move away.

    Maybe it should have done, but it didn't. The screens at Cologne did, however.

    I had my phone with me, but unfortunately it didn't receive the setup codes to allow me internet access until some time later (it can often take quite awhile after you land), and there was no wifi anywhere in the station. But thanks to you and others for the useful tips. I am unlikely to go back to Cologne anytime soon, but I may well travel elsewhere in Germany.

    One last question if I may. I found the local transit system quite easy to use, morphing seamlessly from tram to underground to metro, once I worked out not travel in the back coach (many stations only have one nameboard in the centre of the station, so if you sit in the back coach you only know where you are when the train is leaving the station!). I managed to get hold of a transit map from my hotel, and as was pointed out earlier, the lines are all numbered like bus lines. However, while I was waiting at the stop on my way back to the airport, on the departure screen I saw a couple of pending services labelled as 16E, as well as some of the usual 16. My map showed a route 16, but nowhere could I find what a 16E might be. E for Express? I was tempted to catch it to see where it went, but I had a flight to catch.
     
  17. Spoorslag '70

    Spoorslag '70 Member

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    16E should be 16 "Einsatzwagen" (i.e. Extra), usually only working a portion of the route (or to/from a depot).

    The numbering of regional railway services can indeed be quite confusing if you are not used to it - something which only the Germans really do anyways (but I belive the Czech are now starting to number their long-distance routes).
     
  18. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Virgin Trains did it for a bit but seem now to have got bored of it, FWIW.
     
  19. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    SBB started numbering its IC services from the start of the current timetable.
     
  20. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I think it's a good idea. After all, other than Trent who have their own bizarre way of doing things, people are quite used to the idea of bus numbers throughout the UK.
     
  21. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    I can still remember when Trent's 6.1 used to be the R61.
     

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