German rail operator rolls out plan for ‘safer’ Christmas travel

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To handle an expected increase of Christmas passengers as coronavirus cases remain high, Deutsche Bahn (DB) announced on Wednesday it would run special trains over the holidays to allow more room on-board and to maintain social distancing.

With passenger numbers well down on normal levels, DB still expects reduced business over the Christmas period compared to normal years, but also a sharp uptick on the current traffic.

Taking advantage of the timely receipt of 15 new high-speed ICE trains, the German rail company plans up to 100 additional train runs, especially on main routes between large cities.

Twice as many special trains as normally run during Christmas will be used, between December 18 to 27.

The extra trains increase DB’s daily long-distance capacity by 13,000 seats, almost 10% above current levels, according to the company.

This year, “we have more capacity than ever before,” said Berthold Huber, the head of DB’s passenger transport board, in a statement.

Social distancing and mask checks

To ensure that passengers can be seated as far apart as possible, DB has also updated its reservation system.

Overall, only 60% of seats on each long-distance train will be able to be reserved, though passengers are not required to do so.

With the expected increase in trains and passengers, Deutsche Bahn also intends to increase checks to ensure that all passengers are wearing masks.

In total, some 4,000 security forces are being deployed along with 5,000 federal police officers for this purpose.

“It’s our responsibility to make travel as safe as possible ahead of Christmas,” the head of DB’s infrastructure board, Ronald Pofalla, said in a statement.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, DB expects ridership to be significantly lower through the holidays. One consumer survey suggests passenger volume will fall some 60% compared to normal levels, reported news agency DPA.

Author: Michael Buchsbaum

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