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I recently purchased a train ticket for a journey, and I noticed some conditions regarding the ticket's usage. It states that the ticket constitutes a continuous contract of carriage in each direction and that I can use all trains indicated on my ticket. However, it's unclear to me whether this means I can still use the return portion of my ticket if I happen to miss the outbound train.

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    Ideally you could if you miss the outbound train because of some delay or something but it has to be used on the same day Commented May 3 at 15:56

2 Answers 2

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DB does not really do "return" tickets. If you buy a "return" ticket from A to B and back to A what you really are doing is buying a ticket A to B, and another one B to A, in the same transaction. Both tickets are thus largely independent of each other.

Buying both outward and return in the same transaction does however add the advantage that you can get a refund for the return part if DB messes up the outbound part and you therefore decide to forego travel. But it does not add conditions to the second ticket.

Furthermore DB does not have the means to prove that you did not in fact make the outbound trip. So unlike airlines they do not even have the ability to cancel your second ticket if you do not use the first.

You are even free to board trains at a later station, or leave a train before the destination on your ticket. Train travel is not like air travel.

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    "Train travel is not like air travel" - fortunately not in Germany. In the UK it's very much like air travel: the ticketing system is a mess and you can now be denied exit if you get off at an earlier station until you buy a new ticket. :-(
    – Aaron F
    Commented May 4 at 17:06
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    “You are even free to board trains at a later station […]” One may loose a seat reservation when doing that though.
    – Carsten S
    Commented May 5 at 17:47
  • Based on the previous comment, I wonder if "You are free to board at a later station" is true for the (rare) trains with mandatory reservations (which applies to some international trains to some neighbouring countries, in particular in summer).
    – gerrit
    Commented May 6 at 8:59
  • @gerrit: I don't know the answer, but note that what the previous comment about seat reservations means in practice is that some 15 minutes (?) after departure from the stop where the reservation starts, the (electronic) seat reservation indicator stops showing the reservation. If you arrive later than that and someone else is sitting there already, you have no basis to argue that the other person must give up their seat. If the seat is still free, you occupy it, and the train attendant checks the ticket only at some later point, they have no way to find out since when you actually sat there. Commented Jun 1 at 17:53
  • @O.R.Mapper But for trains where seat reservations are mandatory, logically there should not be more people on the train than seats.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 3 at 14:03
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Yes, you are allowed to use the return part of your ticket even if you should miss the outbound train.

This is common practice (no conductor would ever check your outbound travel when being on the return train), but also stated clearly in the "Allgemeine Beförderungsbedingungen" (General Conditions of Carriage).

1.3.4: "Beinhaltet eine Fahrkarte eine Hin- und Rückfahrt, so bilden diese Hin- und Rückfahrt jeweils einen separaten Beförderungsvertrag." (If a ticket includes a return journey, these outward and return journeys each form a separate transport contract.)

Furthermore, the general conditions state that "Bei Fahrkarten für Hin- und Rückfahrt wird nach Antritt der Rückfahrt die Fahrkarte für die Hinfahrt ungültig." (The ticket for the outward journey becomes invalid after the start of the return journey) which confirms that it is legal to start the return trip without having used the outbound part of the ticket, the only consequence is that you are not allowed to use the outbound part thereafter.

This of course is only relevant for (expensive) tickets where you are free to choose the train; cheaper tickets have "Zugbindung": only valid on the booked train. Then the outward train by definition is before the return train.

Source: https://www.bahn.de/agb

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