Deutsche Bahn’s ICE punctuality remains below target

6 Sep 2019 by Alex McWhirter
Deutsche Bahn ICE train - iStock

One year ago, Business Traveller reported on the issues at German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB).

The problems were affecting DB’s famed image of reliability and punctuality in the eyes of the travelling public.

Germany’s Deutsche Bahn faces challenging times

Since then DB set itself a 76.5 per cent punctuality target for its long-distance trains. By the standards of some rail networks the target was not particularly ambitious, and DB still cannot achieve it.

Germany’s Handlesblatt reports that last month one in four of DB’s long-distance trains ran late, as punctuality was 75.2 per cent.

I ought to point out that punctuality is based on a train arriving more than six minutes late.

Readers may think this does not represent a significant delay but in Germany any delay is important.


Because in Germany DB’s high-speed ICE network is constructed around short connections at various hubs nationwide. Miss a connection and one might be stranded for an hour or more.

DB’s ICE network is rather like the ‘hub and spoke’ we see in aviation… except the connections, instead of being typically 45-900 minutes, may only be several minutes.

Customers taking ICE trains ought to expect the best service.

DB markets the ICE as its most prestigious service and ICE seats are sold at a premium price.

As Handlesblatt notes, “the 75.2 per cent punctuality in August was two percentage points more than in July.”

However it also reports that “in four of the eight months this year DB [its punctuality] has remained below the arrival target of 76.5 per cent.”

And on September 4, rail fan Philip Dyer-Perry discovered DB’s performance for himself whilst travelling from Zurich to Hoek van Holland (the departure point for the Harwich ferry).

He tweeted: “German punctuality is a bit of a myth. Slack station work, a broken down freight train, signal failure, a train in reverse formation and an unexploded WWII bomb (ok that wasn’t their fault), made for a fraught journey of frantic dashes, unexpected stops and missed connections.”

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Business Traveller December 2019 / January 2020 edition
Business Traveller December 2019 / January 2020 edition
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