Yesterday I wanted to make my first reservation ever with Deutsche Bahn (the German railway). But I had to find out that still in 2016 it is more than complicated to travel by train when using a wheelchair.
Of course I’d read all the information on how to travel with reduced mobility on the website of Deutsche Bahn to be perfectly prepared. You have to call their mobility service when you need help to get in and off the train and/or if you have to change trains on your journey. And this service also books the wheelchair seats for you. I assumed that nowadays, in 2016, travelling would be much easier than it was 20 years ago… I was wrong.
My very bad idea was to first buy my tickets (like every other passenger) and then call their service hotline to ask for the mobility service.
Lady on the phone: „What!? You’ve already bought your tickets? That wasn’t a good idea as you should always call us first to make sure that there are still some wheelchair seats available!“ I asked myself why that wasn’t written on their homepage.
The woman was quite nice on the phone and she told me that the wheelchair seats for my chosen trains were unfortunately booked. She patiently checked all other possible trains and connections on that day for more than 45 minutes. But nothing – what a frustrating experience! The worst was that I’d bought these tickets for me and my friend as we had planned to travel together. The service assistant advised me to cancel them as we couldn’t take these trains without free seats.
Can you imagine that Deutsche Bahn offers only 2 wheelchair seats per train?!
After explaining that this would have been my first trip with Deutsche Bahn and that I had absolutely no idea of calling the mobility service before buying the tickets, she luckily transferred the call to her colleague who cancelled the tickets for free. Normally, you have to pay a fee of 17,50 Euros for each ticket cancelled. This favor was very kind!
But still I have to say that 2 wheelchair seats per train are simply not enough. Every human being, disabled or able-bodied, should have the possibility to take the train easily and spontaneously! In France taking the train is much easier than in Germany. I can go directly to the train station and take the next train whenever I want to. Without making any reservation before. The same thing in Japan (to be continued) and so many other countries. I have to say that I’m a little bit shocked as Germany is a well-developped country serving as role model for so many European neighbours. But accessibility of travelling by train is clearly a big point to improve!
PS: I guess I’ll risk my next attempt in 10 years ;-).