For the second time in a month, a nationwide strike has forced German commuters to choose between being stranded at a train station or stuck in a traffic jam. Deutsche Bahn (DB) employees have been on strike since Wednesday, leading to disrupted train schedules and congested roads in what’s planned to be Germany’s longest rail strike to date.

While not uncommon in Germany, these rail strikes are only one facet of the many challenges facing the national railway service. Passengers regularly grapple with prolonged delays and cancellations for a variety of reasons that go beyond labor disputes.

Frequent cancellations

DB operates the majority of Germany’s railways and is responsible for approximately 95% of long-distance transportation, 67% of local transit and 42% of freight conveyance. In 2023, just 64% of long-distance trains reached their destination on time, meaning less than six minutes late, according to a DB spokesperson. These numbers, however, do not include instances where delays are so long that journeys are canceled.

In a 2023 study by the nonprofit Consumer Choice Center, Germany accounted for six out of the 10 worst stations for passenger convenience in Europe. The index, which assessed factors like network connections and the frequency of delayed services, indicated that the German railway system is trailing far behind its neighbors in terms of service and efficiency.

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