Saturday, 2 August 2014

How to Read Deutsche Bahn On-Board Journey Screens

DB Regional trains all have screens in their carriages detailing which train you are on, where it is going, and where it is now. But how to read them if you've never seen one before, and don't speak German?

It is actually quite simple, but all too often I have been asked by panicked passengers if this train is going to so-and-so-berg.

The top-left of the screen says which numbered train you are on, in this case the RB (Regionalbahnlinie) 19. Underneath it explains for those of us who haven't memorised the Deutschebahn Liniennetz that this is the line from Berlin Gesundbrunnen to Senftenberg. The regional lines begin either RB (Regionalbahn), or RE (Regional-Express). The RE trains are larger (usually double-decker) and faster than RB trains. They also usually have a service/refreshment carriage, though this is usually just a couple of coin-operated drink and snack dispensers. RB trains are slower, because they call at all the villages in the middle of nowehere, but they are generally quieter, except on busy weekends when they will be full of bikes and ramblers.

Here is a link to a handy PDF map of all the RE and RB trainlines in Berlin and Brandenburg.We are off to Senftenberg, so the RB19 is the one for us. We could have got the RE2 and changed at Cottbus, but we are in no hurry.

Top right is the current time, which is always spot-on in our experience. By the way, all times are 24-hour clock.

Below that it tells us that the next station stop (Nächste Station) is Groß Köris, and we are scheduled to arrive there at 10:34. Then it gives us an estimated actual time to arrival, which will be in ten minutes (noch 10 Minuten). Oh no! Current time plus ten minutes is 10:37 - we're running five minutes late!

After that are further station stops (Weitere Stationen). Unfortunately, with RB trains there are often so many that you have to wait until your final destination (Senftenberg for us) starts appearing on the screen.

When the trains arrives at a station, the display will tell you which side of the train to get out on (ausstieg), either on the left (links) or right (rechts), relative to the direction the train is travelling in (Fahrtrichtung). There will also be an announcement over the loudspeaker system. So, if you hear 'Ausstieg in Fahrtrichtung links' you know that if when you are facing the front of the train, you have to leave the train by the door on the left. That's useful to know if you are man-handling a bike in a crowded carriage and need to make a quick connection (especially if the train is running late).

At station stops the screen will also show the departure time (abfahrt), which on RB trains is pretty much the same as the arrival time, though sometimes the train will wait for up to fifteen minutes or more to make a connection with another train (the Schönefeld airport station is bad for this - make sure that the RB train standing at platform 4 (Gleis vier) is going any sooner than the RE train standing on platform 3 (Gleis drei)).

Also shown just before, and when stopped at the station, are further connections at that station (if any).This would be handy if you are rushing to make a connection and want to know the platform (Gleis) the connecting train is going from. Unfortunately, the platform is often not actually shown. Grrr! If you listen up, there is usually an announcement by the train guard/ticket inspector (Kontrolle) over the loudspeaker of connections; listen out for your destination and "auf Gleis eins" (on platform 1) "auf Gleis zwo" (on platform 2) "auf Gleis drei" and so on. Good luck! And luck is especially needed if you are making a connection at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, when the announcement goes on for a good minute.

By the way, you might notice when RE trains arrive at major stations that a catchy little tune is played. After a long journey this will soon get on your nerves, though you might notice that the tune changes if you cross over into a different Bundesland.

That's pretty much it. The photo is of a screen by the exit doors; there are screens in the carriages too, that only differ in that they also show a loop of adverts and exciting things like the top five titles in the paperback (Taschenbücher) charts. Instead of a red and white DB train, you might find yourself on a franchise operator train, like the green, yellow and white ODEG (Ostdeutsche Eisenbahn GmbH) trains, but they have similar information screens.

Gute Reise!

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