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Our DB ICE train was cancelled. It was already after midnight; the next available leaves at 1:30 AM and is inconvenient for us. My question is, since we can use other trains, can we take a train the day before so we still arrive at our designated time?

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  • Super Sparpreis
    – John
    Apr 2 at 20:59
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    Do you enter the train in Germany, Switzerland, or another country? Rules that apply for DB in Germany do not necessarily apply for ICE trains starting in Switzerland.
    – gerrit
    Apr 3 at 6:54
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Some Flex tickets are explicitly valid on more than one day, although I think that's day + following day rather than day + preceding day. That gives more freedom than a Sparpreis with cancelled Zugbindung, which I think is normally valid only on the same day, unless DB has announced otherwise. I don't know if your answer is accurate and complete; the freedom is not unlimited; OP probably can't travel 2 months earlier.
    – gerrit
    Apr 3 at 7:07
  • Thanks all to the various advise - will advise tomorrow what happens. j
    – John
    Apr 3 at 20:00

3 Answers 3

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Yes. If your train is cancelled or if one of the trains in your itinerary is so delayed that you can assume to arrive at your final destination more than 20 minutes late, the ticket can be used on any DB train in the same or lower train category. With your ICE ticket, that includes all trains. Also on trains departing before your initial travel plan.

If there is mandatory reservation on the new departure, you will need a new reservation and may get a refund for any old reservations you are not able to use. With some further caveats and restrictions, it may also be possible to use trains run by other train operators or other means of transport as an alternative.

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    Also in trains that start the day before the ticket is valid?
    – Willeke
    Apr 2 at 19:20
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    The Zugbindung rules are not particularly intuitive for those used to air travel and aren't super well explained in English, so it's understandable why people would think that it's not possible to use the ticket for such a wide choice of other trains. Apr 3 at 1:49
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    (To be clear, I don't think anyone will mind you taking a 23:22 train in place of 00:22. But the statement "you can use it a week before the planned trip [or] a week later", hence outside the explicitly printed validity period, sounds like dangerous advice unless there is a more recent/official source confirming this.)
    – pascalhein
    Apr 3 at 6:24
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    @pascalhein A year later in the same thread DB_Bahn posted this: twitter.com/DB_Bahn/status/1661664773816156161 Apr 3 at 6:34
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    It is in general a bit risky to trust single or cherry-picked DB tweets. Their terms and conditions are so complicated and convoluted, that it is unfortunately not uncommon to get incorrect answers from their customer service, nor that their T&Cs are so strict or interpreted so strict, that they are violating general customer protection rights. Apr 3 at 6:39
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Just for information. After explaining at the Reisen Centrum that I needed to be in Heidelberg at 10am the next day and even though the "suggested" replacement for my 0.22am train would make it in time (departing Berlin at 1.54am) and the next suggestion of leaving earlier this evening (dep 9.27 arrive 3.45 was both "not convenient", I asked if I could travel now, 9am, and the answer was "yes, sure, that would mean you make it in time". The Reisencentrum have discretion, wrote an indecipherable note on a printed version of my original ticket and sent me off to catch the train of my choice. Apart from the 20 minute wait to do that, nothing about it was difficult, much stress dissolved. Thanks all. J

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Regardless of DB terms and conditions, which are fiendishly complicated, you are in any case entitled to EU rail passenger rights:

If you are delayed due to a cancelled train, meaning you would arrive at your final destination with a delay of more than 60 minutes, you have the right to choose between:

  • a refund of your ticket within 30 days – this may be a full or partial refund (covering the part of the journey not made), and a return journey to your initial point of departure, if, the delay due to the cancelled train prevents you from fulfilling the purpose of your trip, or
  • continuing or re-routing your journey under comparable conditions to reach your final destination at the earliest opportunity, at no additional cost, or
  • continuing or re-routing your journey at a later date of your choosing under comparable conditions, at no additional cost. This includes alternative transport to get you to your final destination when the train is blocked and the service is suspended.

(emphasis mine)

Some travel companies may send you a new ticket for a different train, others cancel your ticket and issue a refund, but in the case of DB, they will notify you via e-mail and/or the DB Navigator app telling you that your Zugbindung is cancelled, and you can figure out for yourself a different connection for which you can use your ticket. Clearly, travelling an hour earlier should count as a journey under comparable conditions, so this will certainly be allowed.

It could be a bit more muddy if you need two trains, your first train runs, but your second train is cancelled, and you want to take an earlier initial train to catch an earlier second train. Within Germany this should work, but when I tried that with a journey starting in Switzerland (and the German connection being cancelled), I was told I couldn't do that (which I doubt is correct, but I'm not sure if EU passenger rights apply in Switzerland).

In case of doubt, you can always ask the Zugbegleiter*in (train supervisor). They have substantial freedom to authorise your travel or not. They can and often will let you travel even in cases where it normally wouldn't be allowed, if you have a good reason (which you do).

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  • About the situation in the second paragraph: couldn't one just buy a new ticket for the earlier train, and then claim a full refund for the old ticket? Of course, this helps only if the new ticket is of a similar price.
    – GoodDeeds
    Apr 3 at 17:11
  • @GoodDeeds Yes, one could, but that's 1) more work and 2) more expensive if the cancelled ticket was a Sparpreis. One might book a (new) seat reservation, but at 23:20 that's normally completely unnecessary.
    – gerrit
    Apr 4 at 6:47

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