German rail question about changing trains
September 17, 2007 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Why are transfer times between trains in Germany so brief, and should I be concerned about this?

I booked tickets for a train from Luxembourg to Berlin next month. It's the only leg of my vacation that will see me change trains (all others are nonstop, city to city); I'll change in Cologne. Among all the options at the Rail Europe website, my trip has the longest gap I could find between trains- and it's only seven minutes! Arrive Cologne 13:42, depart for Berlin 13:49. I'm used to flying and needing at least, say, 45 minutes when changing planes- did I do something wrong? How is 7 minutes adequate?
posted by ethnomethodologist to Travel & Transportation around Ohio (13 answers total)
The trains really do run on time in Germany, but yikes seven minutes is pushing it. Finding the right train itself will take some time.
posted by caddis at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2007

You leave the train, you find the nearest departure board, you go to the other platform.

Köln Hauptbahnhof has ten tracks on only five platforms (pdf link) -- doesn't sound too big to me.
posted by genghis at 9:44 AM on September 17, 2007

a) Trains are in many cases very much on time.
b) Often long distance trains leave from the same platform so it will be: get out, walk three steps, get in.
c) Sometimes trains wait for each other. If there's a whole bunch of people in your train that are booked on the train to Berlin and a possible delay is only a couple of minutes, they might wait.
Listen for the bilangual (German / English) Announcements shortly before you reach Cologne as to which trains will be reached in time.
d) On weekdays there's a non-stop train from Berlin to Cologne every hour. Unless you have a special bargain ticket that binds you to a specific train your ticket is viable for the next connections as well. So the worse that could happen is a close to one hour wait combined with coughing up some extra money for the difference between bargain and normal price.
posted by ollsen at 9:57 AM on September 17, 2007

What's more, the platforms are usually announced in advance in Germany. Try Deutsche Bahn's online timetable. I looked at the schedule for tomorrow and the incoming Luxembourg train is across the same platform from the departing Berlin ICE:
Luxembourg Tu, 18.09.07 dep 10:24 IC 435
Köln Hbf Tu, 18.09.07 arr 13:42 3
Köln Hbf Tu, 18.09.07 dep 13:49 2 ICE 951
Berlin Hbf Tu, 18.09.07 arr 18:10 12 D - G
posted by grouse at 9:57 AM on September 17, 2007

I meant "non stop train from Cologne to Berlin every hour".
posted by ollsen at 9:58 AM on September 17, 2007

If their delay causes you to miss your timetabled connection on a saver ticket, they should let you go on at no extra cost under the CIV.
posted by grouse at 10:01 AM on September 17, 2007

That's pretty normal. Train stations are not like airports- they are much more compact, there's no luggage check, no check in, &c. Grab your stuff and stand right by the door before the train arrives in the station so you can get out quickly, and you should be fine.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:37 AM on September 17, 2007

Cologne Central station is huge but the DB (German Railway) website also shows this connection which means it should be fine, they usually give you plenty of time to change trains (by the way, the ticket prices on the Rail Europe website seem ridiculously high).
If your train from Luxemburg will be delayed, the train to Berlin most likely won't wait though (trains usually only wait if they expect passengers from a faster delayed train).
posted by snownoid at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2007

You'll be fine. The only reason you should worry is if you have a mobility problem or have more luggage than you can carry. Otherwise 7 minutes is enough time. If you miss it, there's always another train.
posted by Nelson at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2007

I was worried about this when I was in Germany and doing some train travel. As everyone has said, however, the train stations are not huge, and it is often just a matter of walking across a platform or up a staircase quickly.

What was fun was when my wife decided we had enough time for her to go and grab some coffee/munchies while making our connection. I got to watch her run to make it back in time from my comfy window seat.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:50 AM on September 17, 2007

Vielen Dank, y'all!
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:22 PM on September 17, 2007

Maybe I got unlucky, but I experienced lots of late trains when I lived in Germany.

Have you been to Köln before? If I were you I'd get the train in the next hour and go out & have a look around the Dom.
posted by lastobelus at 11:59 PM on September 17, 2007

lastobelus, I'm already spending 4 days in Koeln. Kln-Lux-Bln.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:26 AM on September 18, 2007

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