Deutsche Bahn : Bonn to Luxembourg

Above is Bonn railway station (it’s not leaning, that’s my poor walk-by photography effort), but before I get going about this journey, I’d add that I haven’t been much of a fan of Deutsche Bahn before this little expedition. Their trains are frequently late, the services are overly busy and the customer service is diabolical. However, they managed to excel themselves on this journey by exceeding even my low expectations, but, fortunately the Gods were on our side this time……

So, there were meant to be four parts to our journey. It was essential we caught each component part, as the final leg was on the last train into Luxembourg.

The journey was meant to be:

(i) Bonn to Koblenz (20:14 to 20:46)

(ii) Koblenz to Wittlich (21:40 to 23:05) – bus replacement

(iii) Wittlich to Trier (23:15 to 23:41)

(iv) Trier to Luxembourg (23:49 to 00:37)

Throughout the day, we were aware that our first train from Bonn to Koblenz would be late departing, this was clearly explained in the app and I liked that. We had a 54-minute wait in Koblenz, so a slight delay wouldn’t be a problem, but anything much longer would be. The delay was fifteen minutes at one stage, but throughout the day that dropped to around six minutes, although I became quite addicted to checking this throughout the afternoon.

The first train turned up around eight minutes late and was nearly full, but we managed to find seats and everything went smoothly into Koblenz. Although, I’d note, that the train was not clean and the toilets were particularly bad. We filled the time in Koblenz with a McDonald’s, which was at the railway station, and Nathan won a chicken burger on the McDonald’s Monopoly game which he kindly gave to me. At this stage, we were relatively confident that this was all going to work out.

Incidentally, Koblenz is a beautiful city from what we saw of it, that’s Fort Constantin overlooking the railway station.

The replacement bus service wasn’t well advertised, but we knew where to go as we’d got off here the previous day.

We got to sit at the front and the replacement bus journey was on time and so we getting really quite confident of the situation, expecting to be at Wittlich for around fifteen minutes whilst waiting to connect onto the third part of our journey. All went well with the journey, but it appeared that the general confusion caused by Deutsche Bahn meant a German passenger had got on the wrong bus and was now being hurtled along to an incorrect destination. It wasn’t clear exactly what was going on, as his long conversation with the driver was in German, but it didn’t look good…..

Safely into Wittlich railway station.

The train, operated by CFL, turned up on time in Wittlich and we were now becoming more relaxed at the situation as we knew that we were definitely getting to Trier. Signage was poor, but there were only two trains left to run that day, so it would have been difficult to get on the wrong one, especially as they were both going to Trier.

The information screens didn’t have the correct times on, which was initially confusing, and the time for Saarbrucken made no sense.

A friendly conductor came to check our tickets and then revealed that the final train on our schedule didn’t exist. Deutsche Bahn had effectively sold a ticket on a train which wasn’t even operating. Just marvellous. However, the situation wasn’t critical, the conductor, who fortunately spoke good English, told us that there was a service operating to Luxembourg from outside of the railway station. This was a bus replacement, which wasn’t ideal, but we were relieved that there was a solution (every problem needs a solution).

I need to go back a bit in this story now, as our train was arriving into Luxembourg central railway station at just before 01:00, and it was a one hour forty minute walk to our hotel at the airport as public transport had stopped by that time. We were toying with the idea of either getting a taxi or walking at this stage, although we’d have probably walked as the taxis were expensive.

However, we noticed that this bus replacement service was not going to the railway station, it went to the park and ride where Flixbus depart from. This is a twenty minute walk from the railway station and I was surprised that Deutsche Bahn thought for one moment that this was acceptable. At least in the UK, the bus replacement actually leaves from the station the train did and gets into the station that the train was meant to. Anyway, that meant we would be facing an even longer walk back to the hotel and there was no guarantee of a taxi being available. Unfortunately, Luxembourg has banned Uber and Bolt, instead using their own service which ran on a particularly clunky and irritating app. This showed that no taxis were available, so there was a dawning realisation that this could become a long night.

So, we departed the train at Trier and went to the front of the railway station, with the above photo showing our options. I was moderately surprised that there were no staff and the railway station building was closed, a situation which is intolerably unsafe (not necessarily for us, but for a lone female traveller it certainly is). We wandered around looking for a replacement coach service, and there weren’t any. We did have a back-up plan of visiting the Ibis Styles in Trier, where I’ve stayed before, but this was expensive and would have given us a troublesome early morning trip from Trier to Luxembourg before our flight.

Fortunately, at the very last moment, Nathan noticed that there was a Flibco coach going to Luxembourg. So, I speak to the driver and explained our predicament. It now becomes apparent that this coach, which was about to depart, was the bus replacement service. Instead of operating a proper service, Deutsche Bahn had randomly put passengers on this service. Well, some passengers, Nathan and me weren’t on the list. Quite why there needed to be a list was a mystery, as Deutsche Bahn must have known some customers might have booked late and clearly some people weren’t on it anyway (we weren’t).

The driver was confused at this whole situation, this was Flibco’s regular service, but he was expecting a few Deutsche Bahn passengers. He was very helpful and after some confusion, and doubt whether he should be accepting us, he let us on. We were immensely grateful at his helpful attitude, but I was conscious that we were actually on the bus we were meant to be on.

It was at this stage that we realised we were enormously lucky. As this wasn’t a traditional bus replacement service, it was already going to Luxembourg airport as part of its usual route. This was ideally where we wanted to go, as our hotel was located opposite and this meant our planned long walk would no longer be needed. The driver was happy for us to go there and just thirty minutes later, the coach pulled in to the airport and Nathan and I were considerably pleased at the situation. We were the only passengers to embark or disembark and I can confirm it was quite a relief to be there safely.

Amazingly, we reached the Ibis at 00:40, with just enough time to enjoy our two free drinks from the hotel. A glass of Bofferding beer has never tasted so good….

I will say though, Deutsche Bahn were pretty appalling. They have an astoundingly low number of customer service staff, their stations close far too early, their app is unreliable and the efficiency was generally inadequate. I’m conscious that things go wrong, but the company had clearly made little effort with its replacement bus services and the facilities for those with disabilities were near zero. Hopefully I won’t be stuck using them again for some time, of all the rail services I’ve used across Europe, they are hands down the worst operator I’ve endured.