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Hi ticketing experts,

I have a question about HOTNAT (“Hop on the next available train”) from RailTeam, which nobody from DB can seem to answer. On the phone they tell me they don’t know, and I get no reply to emails.

On 22.10 I am traveling from Leipzig Hbf to St. Pancras International via Frankfurt and Paris. This leaves me with a 20-minute connection in Frankfurt (tight for DB).

I booked this trip on Trainline and have three separate tickets for the journey.

  • ICE super Sparpreis from Leipzig to Frankfurt.
  • SNCF PREM'S SECONDE for Frankfurt - Paris (a DB ICE is operating this service)
  • Eurostar standard Paris -> London.

I need to know, in the event of a delayed arrival into Frankfurt, if I am entitled to a HOTNAT stamp in Frankfurt to continue my journey.

DB Twitter are the only ones to reply to my query, but they said HOTNAT is only valid for ‘durchgehende Fahrkarten’, so connections under one ticket (can’t be true, as it’s impossible to get a Eurostar service in a DB ticket), and that in Germany you can only get a HOTNAT stamp in Cologne, which is unhelpful if you are traveling via Frankfurt.

The HOTNAT website is also unclear if HOTNAT applies between two high-speed trains of the same company (DB ICE), or if it counts as traveling between two companies, because I have one DB ticket and one SNCF ticket, even though the latter is operated by a DB ICE.

I’m hoping somebody here can help me.

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    For better understanding, maybe you could edit your question, and explain what HOTNAT is (Hop on to next available train, I assume), and what the address of the HOTNAT website you're referring to is.
    – Berend
    Jul 21, 2022 at 8:01
  • Your concern is being able to get on another Eurostar? Would the next train to Paris allow you to catch your original connection?
    – Relaxed
    Jul 21, 2022 at 8:30
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    @BernhardDöbler from my experience 20 mins is not much time, as it is not rare for ICEs to be up to an hour late on this route. There are some building works in Frankfurt on the 22nd, meaning the ICE from Brussels will be starting in Köln instead of Frankfurt. That, and Paris was cheaper.
    – Jonas
    Jul 21, 2022 at 15:20
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    I’ve spoken to a top secret source close to Trainline, and he recommends sending an email to Trainline customer services. They may be able to reassure you better than random people on the internet, and might know better the complex rules around transfers. Jul 21, 2022 at 17:37
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    @Jonas What makes you thing this would actually happen? You should really add links as another comment suggested. I know the UIC has some rules and some tickets might technically not be eligible for assistance but I have never experienced this in practice nor ever required a “stamp“ to get on another train during irregular operations. Personally, I would be more concerned about the Eurostar ticket.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 21, 2022 at 19:50

2 Answers 2

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Checking Trainline's website, it looks as if DB's twitter is incorrect here:

If you are travelling by high-speed trains and your connection is between 2 different carriers, then you could benefit from the HOTNAT guarantee (“Hop On The Next Available Train”). Although an available seat is not guaranteed. Eligible criteria:

Missed a connection between 2 high-speed trains from the Railteam alliance: DB (ICE), SNCF (TGV), Eurostar, Thalys, TGV Lyria.

AND

Your connection departs from one of these stations.

...Frankfurt Main Station...

Since you say you have an SNCF ticket, I would very strongly assume that the fact that DB happens to operate the specific train is irrelevant - presumably at different times SNCF and DB operate the route.

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    I think OP is worried about arriving to Frankfurt late, missing his connection there. Since he goes from Leipzig to Frankfurt first, IMO his connection doesn't fit the "connection departs from Frankfurt" requirement...
    – Sabine
    Jul 21, 2022 at 14:12
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    @Sabine Hmm? The connection departs from Frankfurt but not the journey. Maybe there's terminology confusion here - I know some European rail operators (very unidiomatically) use terminology like "search connections" to mean "search journeys". But Trainline being an English website I'd imagine they'd use the common English meaning of the word "connection" - in this context, referring to the train to which you are connecting.
    – Muzer
    Jul 21, 2022 at 14:22
  • That is exactly what I booked based off of. But after seeing the DB tweet, I called the DB international booking helpline, and their agent said that their internal information about HOTNAT, is that the stamp is only obtainable in Cologne, and that I cannot rely on HOTNAT for my connection (Either way it’s laughable that you need a stamp for a serviced called ‘Hop on the next available Train’.)
    – Jonas
    Jul 21, 2022 at 15:10
  • On the HOTNAT network map - railteam.eu/en/for-your-journey/network-map - Frankfurt is shown as a Hub where HOTNAT is available. But if DB is telling me their internal information says it’s not, I’m not sure the Railteam website will help me if I’m stuck in Frankfurt, as they will make decisions based on the information they have available internally. So I’m starting to think I should book a train to Frankfurt for the night before, and stay in a hotel to avoid the situation. My experience of the ICE from Leipzig to Frankfurt would tell me to err on the side of caution, many delays
    – Jonas
    Jul 21, 2022 at 15:14
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    It’s a shame really, we have the amazing rail infrastructure to go from Leipzig -> London in less than 11 hours, but unclear rules and regulations make air travel so much more attractive. DB used to sell a ‘London Spezial’ Through Ticket to London, where they would even pay for a hotel if your train was delayed overnight, similar to airlines. It’s only gone downhill since Brexit.
    – Jonas
    Jul 21, 2022 at 15:16
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For anyone interested, I have found the answer.

For tickets where it is possible to book a through ticket on the DB website (Leipzig -> Paris), if you have two tickets you cannot be guaranteed to be allowed onto the next train, they may allow this as a gesture of goodwill, but if missing the first connection within Germany means you miss the Eurostar, that’s a new ticket, unless they also offer a gesture of goodwill.

So - don’t book through Trainline, always book through DB directly as this will allow you to obtain a DB ticket to Paris/Brussels with guaranteed connections.

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    I find the question and answer very unclear. What's the source for this answer? Have they also told you that getting a through tickets to Paris would guarantee you can take another Eurostar? Because what I am reading in your answer is that they basically confirmed that this whole stamp business isn't really important to get to Paris. They won't commit to it in advance and prefer to call it a gesture of goodwill but they acknowledge it is in fact possible in practice. I am still unclear regarding what happens to the Eurostar ticket after that.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 22, 2022 at 13:34

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