A first stress test already took place last weekend: Four days off were possible for those who had taken the Friday after Ascension Day as a bridge day. Time enough to get back on the train and drive away after weeks of stagnation in the Corona crisis. More than 750,000 travelers did this with Deutsche Bahn, as the group announced earlier this week.
Compared to the previous year, that was only half as many customers. But in view of the previous weeks in the Corona crisis, this meant a significant increase for the company. Passenger numbers had previously plummeted by around 90 percent.
It is very likely that the number of travelers will increase again at Pentecost. After all, hotels and restaurants across Germany have opened to guests from outside again this week. Tourism is therefore possible again – despite the continuously increasing number of infections in the corona crisis.
“With a view to the Pentecost weekend, we are also seeing that we are taking an easy step upwards,” said Berthold Huber, board member responsible for passenger transport at Deutsche Bahn, earlier this week. According to this, 30 and 40 percent of the trains are currently fully booked for the coming weekend. At Pentecost, a value of more than 55 percent is normal.
“Things are looking up”
“So it’s slowly going uphill,” said Huber. “We are noticing that people are starting to become a little more secure and are making long-term bookings again.” If you want to know how consumers feel, all you have to do is look at the train bookings.
In order to distribute the occupancy as evenly as possible across all trains, Deutsche Bahn installed an occupancy indicator in its own booking app long before the crisis. This is now being adapted to the new conditions: Even if a train is only half full, a high level of capacity utilization is displayed – in the hope that other customers will switch to another journey. If the bookings continue to increase, ticket sales could also be suspended, it said. However, there should still be no obligation to make a reservation.
The group is also increasing its offer in long-distance transport. On the routes between the big cities such as between Berlin and the Ruhr area and further south, double instead of single trains are to be used again. This will double the number of seats available.
Huber is confident that these measures can be used to manage passenger traffic well. He looks at the booking figures every day, he said with a view to Pentecost. “If there were any major problems somewhere, I would be aware of them.”
No mask requirement
Deutsche Bahn recommends that all travelers wear mouth-to-nose covers. But there is no obligation. The air conditioning systems in the trains ensured a quick and steady exchange of air, said Huber.
However, such “calming instructions” are not sufficient for the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. “A failure or defect of an air conditioning system is no longer just annoying in Corona times, but must lead to an immediate blockage of the wagon,” the association said on dpa request. He also called for more staff to be deployed on trains to help with problems and defuse potential conflicts. “Just relying on social control will not be enough and can make train travel stressful.”