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Train Ticket and Rail Pass Guides Booking and Using Tickets for European journeys involving more than one train

Booking and Using Tickets for European journeys involving more than one train

What to look out for when purchasing tickets for more complicated European train journeys which involve connecting between trains

| Last Updated: 19 days ago
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This guide to booking long distance tickets for long distance train European train journeys that involve having to change trains, includes insights to all of the topics which can be accessed from the Content Menu.

When travelling by train between many popular destinations in Europe, having to make connections between trains can’t be avoided.

Many end-to-end domestic journeys within countries have simple as can be connections between trains, factored into the timetables; this is particularly common in Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Though the need to change trains is particularly prevalent when making long international journeys by daytime express trains.
Partially because the advent of international high speed travel, has led to a reduction in the number of trains, which used to weave across multiple countries on journeys that took all day.

Examples of popular international day routes, on which connections between trains can’t be avoided, include:

  • Switzerland ↔ any destination in Italy south of Bologna and Genoa
  • Denmark ↔ any destination in Germany south of Hamburg
  • Belgium ↔ any destination in Germany south of Frankfurt and east of Dortmund
  • Belgium ↔ Switzerland
  • The UK ↔ Switzerland and Germany
  • Paris ↔ Berlin, Hamburg, Firenze/Florence, Madrid and Rome
  • Austria ↔ any destination in Italy west of Verona and south of Bologna (the daytime trains)
  • Czechia ↔ any destination in Germany east of Berlin and Leipzig.

It doesn’t mean that taking the train on routes such as these isn’t feasible, in fact it can often be fabulous, you’ll just need to take more than one comfortable train in order to complete an end-to-end journey.

Making a transfer between trains can often be as simple as walking on one level from one train to another – it will be if your journey involves changing trains at terminus stations such as Frankfurt (Main) Hbf, Marseille St. Charles, Milano Centrale, Munchen Hbf and Zurich HB.

But what can occasionally be more complicated is booking and using tickets for end-to-end journeys, which involve taking more than one train.

Choosing how to book your tickets:

When buying tickets for journeys that involve changes of train, you have a choice between:

  • booking an end-to-end journey in one transaction, OR
  • making separate bookings (on different websites) for each train you will be travelling by.

Making separate bookings

The positives of booking separate tickets can be:
(1) You can pick and choose your route, including those which can’t be covered by booking in one transaction.
(2) The freedom to choose train departures, which will allow more time to make a connection between trains, or to stop over somewhere on route to your final destination.
(3) It can be cheaper.
Though be wary of maximising your savings, as it's more likely that the cheaper types of ticket will have terms and conditions, which state that they can't be exchanged to a different departure.

Unfortunately the consumer protection around booking separate tickets for each train, in a chain of connections on an end-to-end journey, has become more confusing.
The ticket agents / train operators don't tend to refer to this scenario in their published terms and conditions - because they don't know that when you will be booking one train, that it's actually also part of a multi train journey.
Hence these national rail operators:

  • BLS and/or SBB/CFF (Switzerland)
  • CD (Czech Republic)
  • CFL (Luxembourg)
  • DB (Germany)
  • DSB (Denmark)
  • MÁV-START (Hungary)
  • NS (Netherlands)
  • ÖBB (Austria)
  • Renfe (Spain)
  • SJ (Sweden)
  • SNCB/NMBS (Belgium)
  • SNCF (France)
  • SZ (Slovenia)
  • Trenitalia (Italy)
  • ZSSK (Slovakia)
    signed up to an agreement, knowns as the Agreement on Journey Continuation, the AJC.
    It offers protection against travellers losing out financially in the event of missed connections due to delayed trains, even if
    'they bought several different tickets for their journey, even from different sales channels/ticket providers. As long as the passenger had planned enough connecting time to change trains (called “reasonable connecting time”), the AJC will apply'.

However, more a recent E.U. regulation, the Regulation (EU) 2021/782, which was published in June 2023 specifically excludes booking an end-to-end journey from different sales channels/ticket providers.
It looks as though some ticket providers now take the view that Regulation (EU) 2021/782 supersedes the AJC - so they seemingly no longer offer its protection against financial loss, when booking separate tickets for each train in a chain of connections on an end-to-end journey.

Making one booking

The positives of purchasing a multi-train end-to-end journey on one booking are:
(1) It’s likely that you will have more protection against the unlikely event of having to pay re-book other tickets, in the event of a train delay causing you to miss a connection.
(2) It will save you time when looking up the journey.
(3) The online ticket technology will have worked out a sequence(s) of the train departures you’ll need to take, in order to complete the journey.

Though the ticket agent tech, will usually automatically package together sequences of departures, which enable the end-to-end journey to be completed in the shortest possible time.
It will find the next onward train to your destination, or the next station, and will understandably assume that you’ll want to take those trains.

The ticketing technology will also inevitably assume that each train required to complete a journey will arrive and leave on time, so it won't take into account the likelihood of encountering a delay.

It will also be programmed to allow a reasonable amount of time, in which to make the transfer between trains within a station, but this reasonable amount of time can be as short as 10 minutes.

Looking out for the connecting times between trains

The shorter the connecting time between trains, the less contingency time you’ll have to complete the stipulated journey, in the event of an out of the ordinary occurrence, such as a delayed train departure or arrival.
Hence it can be worth trading the fastest possible end-to-end journey, for a more relaxed journey instead, by avoiding such tightly timed connections.

Some online ticket agents including DB (German national railways) and CD (Czech National Railways) will allow you to extend your preferred connecting time between trains.
But most ticket agents will assume, wrongly in our view, that travellers won’t want to wait much more than an hour for an onward connection, so won’t offer journey options which allow for this - despite alternative connections, with a longer and easier duration between trains, being theoretically available.
So if you’d prefer to give yourself more time to make a connection, booking separate tickets per train can then be the only option.

The tickets you can be issued with when making a single booking (one off payment):

Though there is another scenario in which you will in effect be using separate tickets in order to complete an end-to-end journey.
When booking a multi-train end-to-end journey ticket in one transaction, you will be issued with either:

(1) A ‘through’ ticket, with all the trains you will be taking specified on the one ticket; it’s more than likely that you will be issued with this type of ticket if you will be making a national multi-train journey.
They can also be issued when:

  • the journey involves connecting with trains operated by a non-national company such as Regiojet or Italo
  • if any part of the journey involves taking a Thalys service.
    A tad confusingly when booking 'through tickets' in a single payment, you may still be issued with separate tickets per train.

(2) Separate tickets / 'contracts' for each train you will be taking will be issued - and this can be referred to as a 'ticketing bundle'.
This scenario can most often apply when booking multi-train international journeys, particularly if different operators are providing the trains you will be taking.
For example. the Eurostar terms and conditions specifically state that when booking journeys which combine Eurostar + Eurostar Thalys trains 'through tickets' will be issued
However, 'for all other journeys that combine a Eurostar Service and a service provided by another carrier(s), including when purchased in a single commercial transaction, those tickets will be separate contracts and issues regarding delays, missed connections, cancellations, compensation, and the management of aftersales will be handled accordingly.
Though Eurostar is a member of Railteam - see below

Why this can matter

New E.U. legislation, the Regulation (EU) 2021/782 of the European Parliament states that:
'Where the ticket vendors or the tour operators sell separate tickets as a bundle, they should clearly inform the passenger that those tickets do not offer the same level of protection as through-tickets and that those tickets have not been issued as through-tickets by the railway undertaking or railway undertakings providing the service'.

This distinction between 'through tickets' and tickets sold 'as a bundle' matters, because that same Regulation (EU) 2021/782, which came into effect in June 2023, offers protection against travellers losing out financially when a chain of trains on an end-to-end journey fails due to a missed connection - but crucially only when booking 'through tickets'.
It doesn't apply when separate tickets / contracts / a bundle of tickets has been issued - and it also doesn't apply when connections are missed, but two or more separate bookings have been made for each train in a chain.

However, there are 'exceptional circumstances' built into the legislation in which the train operators don't have to offer any financial compensation to the traveller - even if through tickets have been purchased!

Why the references to the possibility of having to pay again to re-book tickets?

Having to pay to re-book tickets in the event of a train delay is now an unlikely scenario, because the overwhelming majority of European end-to-end train DAYTIME journeys booked in one transaction, are subject to one or more forms of consumer protection against train delays.

The Regulation (EU) 2021/782 of the European Parliament is primarily intended to protect travellers issued with 'through tickets' on national and international journeys involving more than one train, from losing out financially - if a cancelled or delayed train breaks the chain - but only if the circumstances aren't exceptional!

Though the new regulations primarily protect against a delay or cancellation on the travel date, so in effect if the traveller turns up at the station and expects to make the journey, they will be protected against any financial loss, if they they than have to make other arrangements that day

However cancellations ahead of a travel date are something of a grey area.
Some operators specifically state in their terms and conditions, that if a traveller is informed of a cancellation ahead of a travel date, then the terms of Regulation (EU) 2021/782 won't apply.

Other 'grey areas' can apply when 'through tickets' aren't issued, despite a booking being made in single transaction / order.

The implications of that lack of universal terms and conditions have resulted in the inescapable use of phrases such as ‘almost’ and ‘unlikely' in this article; and also creates the consumer confusion that ShowMeTheJourney is trying to alleviate.

Keep the terms and conditions front of mind

Note that the ticketing terms of use, which can stipulate that a ticket(s) can or can’t be exchanged to another departure, or can only be exchanged for a fee, will typically be referring to your commitment to taking the journey by the specified trains.

Meaning that you can’t exchange your ticket to different departures because you’ve decided you’d prefer to travel on a different date; or because your taxi got stuck in traffic on route to the station; or because when you arrived in Lyon on your preceding train, the weather was so lovely, that you’d rather take a later train on to your final destination etc.

What those conditions of use are a lot less likely to be referring to is exchanging tickets, due to a scenario such as train delay resulting in a missed connection.

Though we can’t emphasise enough the recommendation to check the ticket agent’s terms and conditions when booking end-to-end journeys, particularly if the journey requires more than two trains and you're booking a discounted type of ticket,

However, for the time being, there are no universal terms for how end-to-end European train tickets can be used, refunded or exchanged etc.
This is primarily because the terms will vary;

  • according to the combination of trains covered by each ticket,
  • by the type of ticket you have opted to purchase, discounted or full price,
  • how the ticket provider issues the ticket for a multi train journey,
  • whether the tickets have been purchased in one transaction
  • of if separate bookings are made across multiple agents

Why is there a potential need to pay again in the event of delay, when the end-to-end train journey has been paid for?

The departure times of the trains (and train numbers in the countries which use this system) are most usually specified on the ticket because, either:

(1) Reservations are mandatory on the train service you will be travelling by - so the ticket agent needs to assign you seat(s) when booking, your tickets will then have to be valid only on that specific departure.
Though the more expensive types of tickets typically allow for a choice of departure to be made on the travel date.

And/Or:

(2) The train operator applies specific terms and conditions to its cheaper types of ticket, including that the discounted tickets can only be used on the specific departures you selected when booking.

This will be more obvious if you book separate tickets for each train you will be taking, it should be clear if you check the T&Cs of the booking.

However, if you will be booking an end-to-end journey, which involves taking multiple trains, in one transaction, this commitment to travelling on specific departures during the course of a journey, can be less apparent.
The online train ticket agents will put together the available combinations of specific departures into a journey option.
Often you will be given a choice of different journey options, but once you have selected a journey option, you will often be committed to taking those multiple specific departures, that the ticket agent has packaged together.

The departure times (and train numbers) will be included on your ticket(s) or booking.
Whether you have been issued with a ‘though ticket', which includes every train you will be taking on the one ticket(s) - or are issued with separate tickets for different parts of a journey - your ticket(s) will then likely only be valid on those specific trains.
And new EU legislation states that the ticket agents must make it clear if 'through tickets' aren't being offered.
Of course this won't be an issue if the trains are on time, and it is also is now less likely to be problem in the event of disruptions to the train service.

Check before you book

Therefore it is worth paying particular attention to the combination of trains that the ticket agent has included on each-to-end journey option AND the time being provided to make the connections; before you opt to book the journey.

Though if a train you will be taking on your journey doesn’t require a reservation, or if it’s a train service which doesn’t have special terms for how tickets can be used, then the specific departure may not be stipulated on your ticket(s).

But if it is and you then miss a specific train you are booked on to, due to a train delay, what you won’t be able to do is assume that you can board the next train on to your destination regardless; instead you will need to have your original tickets exchanged to a later specific departure.

If a train delay is going to result in missed connection into a train that’s specified on your ticket, the usual scenario is that you will need to have your ticket(s) stamped by the conductor on the train; and then you will need to take your ticket(s) to a ticket desk, so that replacement tickets can be issued.

Usually you need to obtain some sort of proof of the delay to the train, to demonstrate that you haven’t missed the onward connection because you fell asleep in the waiting room etc.
What is a lot less likely, but still a grey area, is whether you will have to pay for the new tickets, that will have to be issued in this scenario.

How likely is it that you’ll have to pay to re-book tickets?

The new EU rules for rail passenger protection have removed many of what had been 'grey areas' when booking national and international journeys involving multiple trains.
The rules apply no matter what type of 'through ticket' has been booked - though the more expensive types of 'flexible tickets' give the freedom to select a departure on a travel date, at the last minute.

In summary the new rules cover the scenario in which a multi train journey has been booked with a one-off payment and 'through tickets' have been issued.
The new rules also state that an agent must make it clear if 'through tickets' won't be offered when booking a multi-train journey in a single transaction -
'In usual circumstances the train operator must offer protection to the purchaser of 'through tickets', in the event of a delayed train or a cancelled train, causing a missed connection into a subsequent train'.

In effect the ticket agent must offer the right to

  • ticket reimbursement - so if your journey is no longer worth making, you will be entitled to a full ticket refund for the portion(s) of your journey which was/were not completed, or the portion(s) already completed.
  • and to accommodation (if a journey cannot continue the same day) - though some ticket agents stipulate a maximum cost of the accommodation,
  • and to refreshments on the train, when appropriate,
  • or compensation in the event of a delayed arrival at a final destination.
    If your arrival at the destination station is delayed by 60 minutes or more, you will receive compensation of 25% of the price paid for a single ticket
    If your arrival at the destination station is delayed by 120 minutes or more, you will receive compensation of 50% of the price paid for a single ticket

Delays will only be a factor on the travel date and not ahead - but cancellations can occur ahead of a travel date.
ShowMeTheJourney is not a lawyer, so my interpretation of this new rule is that if a cancellation occurs ahead of the travel date - and the circumstances aren't exceptional (see below), a refund will be offered, but not an exchange to tickets on an alternative route.

The new EU rules also offer protection against additional cost being incurred when an alternative, more expensive route needs to be taken - these are direct quotes:

(a) Where a solution is not offered within a window of up to 100 minutes from the scheduled departure time of the delayed or cancelled service or the missed connection, the passenger may ask for the carrier’s consent and re-route him/herself to another “transport service” (transport mode not specified), which will enable the passenger to reach the final destination under comparable conditions.
The carrier shall reimburse the passenger for the costs that he or she incurs.

(b) Where a solution is not offered after 100 minutes have elapsed, the passenger no longer needs the carrier’s consent and can re-route him/herself to an alternative rail, coach or bus form of public transportation.
The carrier has to reimburse the “necessary, appropriate and reasonable” cost of the additional ticket.

'Carrier' = train operator.

Note that these re-routing terms 'rules apply when new disruption occurs on the booked travel date - and not a situation which has led to cancellations ahead of the travel date.

In effect the new forms of protection apply if the delay or cancellation is directly concerned with the train operator, such as:

  • a train crew not being available,
  • an on board equipment / power failure,
  • a fault with the track or signaling,
  • damage to the track caused by a train, such as a derailment,
  • and strikes by staff also apply (but usually not if the passenger has been informed that a train has been cancelled due to strike action, prior to a travel date).

However, the Regulation (EU) 2021/782 of the European Parliament which came into effect in June 2023 - specifically mentions exceptional circumstances, when the protection against financial loss doesn't apply!

These are:

(a) extraordinary circumstances not connected with the operation of the railway, such as extreme weather conditions, major natural disasters or major public health crises...

(b) fault on the part of the passenger; or

(c) the behaviour of a third party... such as persons on the track, cable theft, on-board emergencies, law enforcement activities, sabotage or terrorism.

So what's not so good about these new rules is that prior agreements, which some train operators had signed up to, offered exchanges or refunds regardless of the circumstances which caused a delayed train to miss a connection.
The five occasions on which ShowMeTheJourney has been delayed by an hour or more when travelling on express trains within the EU, now all fall within the exceptional circumstances.

Also when booking international journeys, many ticket agents will include a clause in their terms and conditions stating in effect that Regulation (EU) 2021/782 won't automatically apply.
In effect what this refers to is that if the delay is caused by a train in another country, it will be up to the operator of the train in that country to offer the protection under the regulation - which of course only applies to E.U. member states.
Though some tickets agents, notably SBB, make clear the scenarios which apply when travelling to different neighboring countries.

However, despite the new regulations 'grey areas' remain, because some train operators, notably CD, SNCF and Trenitalia, now make specific references to Regulation (EU) 2021/782 in their terms and conditions on their respective websites, but most ticket agents don't.
For now the assumption is that these other agents don't mention it because they will offer the protection set out by Regulation (EU) 2021/782 in any case, but don't want their customers bound by the exceptional circumstances - but there is a fairly big question mark here.
So checking the terms and conditions on each agent is now more important than it was, before the new regulation came into existence!

Separate tickets - the AJC policy

The new rules for multi train journeys only apply when an end-to-end journey is booked in a single transaction and 'through tickets' are issued.

But most train operators, who are members of the CIT, The International Rail Transport Committee (CIT), also offer an Agreement on Journey Continuation (AJC) policy for when a traveller holds separate transport 'contracts' for an end-to-end journey involving more than one train.

So this agreement applies both when 'a bundle' of tickets / contracts is issued as the result of a single transaction - and if travellers have bought several different tickets for their journey, 'even from different sales channels/ticket providers. As long as the passenger had planned enough connecting time to change trains (called “reasonable connecting time”), the AJC will apply'.

The participating operators are

  • BLS – an operator of some local and regional trains in Switzerland, particularly those to/from Bern
  • CD – the national rail operator in Czechia
  • CFL – the national rail operator in Luxembourg
  • DB – the national rail operator in Germany
  • DSB – the national rail operator in Denmark
  • MAV - the national rail operator in Sweden
  • OBB – the national rail operator in Austria
  • NS – the national rail operator in The Netherlands
  • RENFE – the national rail operator in Spain
  • SBB – the national rail operator in Switzerland
  • SJ - the national rail operator in Sweden
  • SNCB – the national rail operator in Belgium, which also provides the B-Europe booking service
  • SNCF – the national rail operator in France (but Ouigo services are not covered)
  • SZ – the national rail operator in Slovenia
  • Trenitalia – the national rail operator in Italy
  • ZSSK – the national rail operator in Slovakia
  • Thalys trains

Also note that Eurostar is not on the list of train operators which abide by the AJC.
Despite this, separate tickets / 'contracts' will be issued in a single transaction on any agent for journeys which involve taking a combination of Eurostar trains + TGV InOui, Ouigo, Lyria, Frecce and ICE trains - or Eurostar + TGV trains between Paris and Germany, Italy and Spain.
Though Eurostar is a member of Railteam - see the note below

Summary of how the AJC policy works

When passengers are stranded between trains, due to the delay or cancellation of the previous train in a travel chain, the AJC Provides for the continuation of the journey with the original carrier at no extra cost - but with no guarantee of a seat on the next available train.

Note that this agreement in effect kicks in at the commencement of a journey, so it doesn't apply if trains are cancelled ahead of the travel date.
Also the journey must be continued by a train operated by the same company - so, for example, if the ticket is for an IC train in Czechia operated by CD, the traveller can't just hop on a Regoiojet train instead

How it works in practice:

  1. Passenger requests a confirmation of delay (form can vary from one railway undertaking to the other), provided by the staff of the delayed/cancelled train
    b) Information on options for continuation and conditions applicable for the service will be provided to the passenger by the staff
    c) Passenger is allowed to board on the next available train with the same carrier - BLS, CD, CFL, DB, DSB, MAV-START, NS, ÖBB, Renfe, SBB/CFF, SJ, SNCB/NMBS, SNCF, SZ, Trenitalia, ZSSK.

However, note that some forms of consumer protection offered by the Regulation (EU) 2021/782 are more generous than the AJC policy.
'The AJC does not reimburse any costs for hotels, taxis, payments for the ticket or compensations, nor does it foresee that railway undertakings will offer any meals or refreshments.
Please note that some participating railway undertakings set specific conditions for continuing the journey.
The railway staff will inform you directly about these conditions'.

the Railteam Alliance

The Railteam Alliance is an association, which aims to ensure high quality service for those who use European high speed trains both on board and at the station.

It's full members are:

Railteam has a Hop on the next available train (HOTNAT) policy.
It 'allows travelers to take the next high-speed service leaving from the same station as originally planned when a delay on or cancellation of a preceding Railteam member’s high-speed service prevents them from making their originally-planned connection. This service is free of charge and is subject to the following conditions:
The connection that was missed must be between two high-speed trains of the Railteam Alliance. HOTNAT only applies at the station at which the passenger originally planned to change trains and in cases of train delays and train cancellations. The approval of HOTNAT is subject to the available capacity on board each train. Seats are not guaranteed'.*

Though because of the need to be at the station that the connecting train will be departing from, issues around train cancellations can be a mute point.
For example, the HOTNAT policy won't apply if you can't then get to Bruxelles or Lille, before the final Eurostar of the day has departed.

This HOTNAT policy has been largely superseded / supported by the AJC and those new EU rules
Though one exception is when connecting in and out of Eurostar trains to and from the UK.
Eurostar's T&C's state;
'...when booking journeys which combine Eurostar + Thalys trains 'through tickets' will be issued.
However, 'for all other journeys that combine a Eurostar Service and a service provided by another carrier is) including when purchased in a single commercial transaction, those tickets will be separate contracts and issues regarding delays, missed connections, cancellations, compensation, and the management of aftersales will be handled accordingly'.

Therefore when making connections:

  • in Bruxelles between ICE trains and Eurostar
  • in Lille and Paris between TGV InOui services and Eurostar
  • in Paris between DB-SNCF / Lyria services and Eurostar
    'issues regarding missed connection and cancellations' should be 'handled' by Railteam's HOTNAT policy.

Eurostar and Thalys services have in effect been merged, so connections between those services are now covered by Eurostar's own terms and conditions.

Note that neither Renfe or Trenitalia are members of Railteam so connections between high speed trains in Spain and France are not covered by HOTNAT.
So connections not protected by HOTNAT include;

  • transfers in Torino or Milano between TGV trains to /from Paris and Italian Frecce, or Italo services
  • transfers between high speed trains in Barcelona.

The rail pass alternative

Particularly if you will be taking a return long-distance journey involving trains provided by multiple operators, InterRail and Eurail passes can be a cost effective and less restrictive alternatives to booking rail tickets.
Despite the mandatory seat reservation fees, which pass users have to pay on some trains, InterRail and Eurail prices typically compare favorably against the prices of the more flexible types of ticket that, in effect, enable a choice of trains when disruption occurs.
The trains on which InterRail and Eurail pass users don't have to reserve, include the high-speed German ICE trains within Germany and on most international routes including the trains to and from Bruxelles.

A factor in rail pass users being a viable alternative to tickets, is that the specific circumstances in which trains are delayed or cancelled, are irrelevant to the users of passes.
And this lack of relevance applies to every train on and end-to-end journey chain.
When the trains being taken have mandatory reservations, at times of disruption they can typically be simply swapped to alternative later trains at travel desks.
What's particularly pertinent is that rail pass reservations can be transferred to trains taking entirely different routes, thereby avoiding 'exceptional circumstances' which can close a route, such as landslides or flooding.
These exceptional circumstances can now require ticket holders to re-book, despite the near certainty that last-minute tickets on the longer alternative routes will be incrementally more expensive.

Though a key exception to the ease of transferring rail pass reservations can be journeys by Eurostar, because the limited number of reservations available to InterRail and Eurail users on each Eurostar inevitably disappear faster than tickets.

Also the ticket agents nearly always assume that travellers taking long routes requiring connections will always want to reach their destinations in the fastest possible time, but with a rail pass you can choose your own trains and avoid making connections against the clock.
So travelling with Eurail and InterRail makes it so much easier to have more time at a station, so that you can have a meal between trains etc, or even dump your bags in left-luggage and set off for a few hours exploring between trains.

When end-to-end tickets aren't available online

Having said ALL of that, the other factor which makes it unlikely that you’ll encounter an issue with using train departure specific tickets, is that the ticket agents usually don’t sell end-to-end journey options, on which there’s a risk that you’ll lose out financially in the event of a delay.

The German national rail operator DB has recently increased the number of international train journeys it sells on its ticket booking website, but these newly offered journeys are all covered by the operators that have signed up to the AJC.
What it doesn’t seemingly sell online are end-to-end journeys which aren’t covered by the AJC.

For other journeys not covered by the protection of the AJC, DB directs customers to its telephone booking service, presumably so that customers can be made aware of any potential pitfalls of booking those journeys.

The ticketing websites of the other national train operators nearly always won’t offer end-to-end journeys, which carry a risk of a re-booking being required in the event of a delay causing a missed connection, particularly if they are not operating every train that’s required to complete the journey.
For example, the national rail operators usually don’t sell end-to-end journeys which involve having to transfer between trains in another country; because they don't operate the trains you will be connecting into.

When reservations aren't mandatory

What can also take the pressure of using end-to-end tickets is when reservations AREN’T compulsory on a particular train service: particularly if the next train on to your destination is provided by the same operator.

Always check with the conductor on the train that's being delayed, what you’ll need to do, but if the final train you need to take will involve travelling in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland or The Netherlands, it’s likely that you will be able to just hop on a subsequent, alternative train.
That’s because reservations aren’t required on the express trains in those countries.

This scenario also comes into play if reservations aren’t available AND tickets ALSO aren’t generally discounted, on the final type(s) of train service that you’ll be taking to complete a journey - such as R/RV trains in Italy and TER trains in France

Though if a specific departure has been included on your ticket because you have booked an end-to-end-journey at the cheapest possible price, then ask the conductor on the delayed train to verify the delay on your ticket.

Situations in which end-to-end tickets often aren't available

When looking up end-to-end journeys you might not find them available for sale on a ticket website; though that scenario is more likely for international journeys, particularly those with more than one change of train.

The five main reasons for this are:

(1) The route you want to take isn’t feasible as an end-to-end journey, primarily because it involves an overnight stop on route.

(2) The ticket agent doesn’t have all the necessary journeys loaded on its back-end systems; no European train system is fully comprehensive.

(3) The ticket agent is avoiding offering a journey, because a routing is potentially high risk in terms of a customer having to incur additional charges by re-booking in the event of a delay.
This is partially why so few multi-train journeys, that involve taking an overnight train can be booked in one transaction.
Though be aware that if you then go ahead and book separate tickets, you and not the ticket provider, will then be taking on that risk.

(4) The ticket agents rarely offer journey options which involve connections between trains of more than around 80 minutes, particularly if an alternative train is departing around an hour earlier.

(5) The connection involves taking an international train to or from, where a night train will arrive or depart - (end-to-end tickets can usually be booked if the journey involves taking a domestic train service; for example it's possible to make an end-to-end booking for a Graz to Hamburg journey, which involves taking a Nightjet on from Vienna, but not a Venice to Hamburg journey).

Overnight trains are infrequent, with no more than 1 x train per night on any route, and due to their lengthy journeys, they are more susceptible to delay than daytime trains.
Tickets to travel by them, particularly in sleeping cabins, are also comparatively expensive as they include the journey fee + the accommodation costs.

These are likely to be contributory factors as to why ticket agents often don't offer end-to-end bookings that involve connecting into and from overnight trains.
As a result it's much more likely that you will have to make separate bookings for the night train and the other trains you will need to take, in order to complete an end-to-end journey.

The fact that travelling on overnight trains inevitably means that journeys can't be completed by the end of a day, may also impact on overnight journeys being protected by the AJC policy.

Therefore if you are considering making separate bookings per train in order to make an end-to-end overnight journey, the advice from ShowMeTheJourney is:
(1) See if one ticket agent will sell all the tickets you will require - the Nightjet website will sell end-to-end journeys to and from stations in Austria.

(2) Prior to booking, contact the ticket agent and check what their policy will be re-booking, particularly if a train delay or cancellation were to cause a missed booked connection into the overnight train.

(3) Either ask the agent for advice on booking an optimum connection, or extend the time you'll have to connect into the overnight train to two or more hours.
That scenario doesn't have to be a problem, target a restaurant or hotel bar in or near the station and have a meal/drink between trains

Booking separate tickets per journey instead

So if the journey you want to take is not available as an end-to-end option, which can be booked in one transaction, you can book separate tickets instead.

You might have not to book separate tickets for every train you need to take, you could for example, book a London to Torino journey involving two trains on Trainline and then book a Torino to Bologna journey on the same site; because you’d rather not change trains in Milano etc.

However, the good news is that bookers of separate tickets are now more LIKELY to have protection against having to pay for additional tickets, IF they will be connecting between DAYTIME trains provided by operators who have signed up to the AJC.
Although it’s still pretty much imperative that you pay close attention to the connecting times between trains when booking separate tickets for an end-to-end journey.
Above all don’t assume that trains will depart and arrive on time.

We also recommend planning ahead and contacting the ticket agents to check whether you will have to re-pay in the event of missing a booked connection.

Though booking separate tickets for different legs of a journey can be a particularly good idea if you’d rather take a relaxed approach to making connections between trains, by using the 90 mins+ between trains to have a meal in or near the station etc.

Even if you will be making connections not protected by the AJC, by taking a longer period of time between trains than that offered by the ticket agents, you will be minimising your chances of encountering a scenario in which you won’t able to use your ticket(s) on the subsequent train.
In the rare event of a train being delayed by more than hour, you won’t then have time to head for a restaurant between trains, but you also wouldn’t have to pay for replacement tickets.

Cancellation ahead of a travel date

The terms and conditions in the event of missed connections around exchange, refund and additional expenditure of rail tickets for a multi-train journey, whether they are aligned to Regulation (EU) 2021/782 or the AJC, are seemingly primarily based on disruption on a travel date.
They refer to cancellations because trains can obviously be cancelled at the last minute, but there is seemingly no clarification on either of these regulations / agreements, as to whether these terms apply to trains cancelled ahead of the travel date.

These may be because all ticket agents / train operators will typically offer a refund in the event of an advance cancellation, regardless of the circumstances which has led to the train cancellation.
But what seemingly is being overlooked in the relatively new Regulation (EU) 2021/782, is that the train operator will only offer 'compensation' for the train which they have cancelled.
But if any train that isn't the final train in a chain of connections is cancelled, it can mean that the subsequent trains will be missed - even if an exchange to alternative route / journey from the starting point is offered.
However, the operator of those final trains in a chain can, in effect, adopt the position, of - "we haven't cancelled the train you were booked on to ahead of your travel date, therefore it's not our fault that you will miss it."

Therefore:

  • if an alternative route / train / journey option is available, but an exchange to it hasn't been offered, or
  • subsequent trains, which haven't been cancelled in advance, will be missed
    a re-booking will be required - but for those who have purchased discounted types of ticket, the refund for those tickets, almost certainly won't cover the cost of the new booking.

Whether Regulation (EU) 2021/782 will cover this scenario isn't clear.
It seemingly definitely won't if the train cancellation ahead of a travel date is due to:
(a) extraordinary circumstances not connected with the operation of the railway, such as extreme weather conditions, major natural disasters or major public health crises...

(b) fault on the part of the passenger; or

(c) the behaviour of a third party... such as cable theft, law enforcement activities, sabotage or terrorism.

However there is a a section of Regulation (EU) 2021/782 which states:

'Where it is reasonably to be expected, either at departure or in the event of a missed connection or a cancellation, that arrival at the final destination under the transport contract will be subject to a delay of 60 minutes or more, the railway undertaking operating the delayed or cancelled service shall immediately offer the passenger the choice between one of the following options, and shall make the necessary arrangements:'

(b) continuation or re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to the final destination at the earliest opportunity

(c) continuation or re-routing, under comparable transport conditions, to the final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience.

The human factor:

If you do encounter the relatively rare scenario, in which a railway operator has caused you to miss a train you had a booking for, then human intervention will come into play.

Ticket agents and conductors can be sympathetic in a scenario of missed connections; as long as you have obtained proof of the train delay, so they can be sure that you’re not having to re-book because you missed your alarm call etc.

I have had tickets re-issued by the Eurostar desk at Gare Du Nord because a tightly timed connection did actually get me there before a preceding train was due to depart, and when a TER train arrived more than an hour late in Paris, because a truck had hit a railway bridge.

The ‘Accueil’ info desks at French stations, don’t issue tickets, but in Nice they were happy to verify I’d missed a connection into a Intercités train because of a delayed arrival of a Thello train, despite that Thello train not being operated by SNCF.

The Frecce desk on the concourse at Milano Centrale, re-issued tickets because a Malpensa Express train from the airport had been cancelled; and these are just four examples, when staff have acted outside the usual remit of the ‘rules’, to ensure I didn’t lose out financially.

Although a more likely scenario is that railway staff will stick to the rules of using tickets for end-to-end journeys, hence it being a good idea to become aware of what those rules are before you book; and the best source of what terms and conditions will apply to your particular journey, are the ticket agents.

(How likely are missed connections due to train delays):

The overwhelming majority of European express trains do depart, and more importantly arrive on time, or within 10 minutes of their booked arrival.

Pan-European statistics for this are hard to come by, so ShowMeTheJourney is going to utilise my experience of taking 246 journeys of over an hour’s duration on continental Europe in the past 6 years
Of these fourteen trains (5.5%) were 15-30 mins late; another fourteen (5.5%) arrived 30-60 mins late and seven of them (2.5%) were delayed by more than an hour.
So if I had been relying on all of these 246 trains to connect into another service, and utilising a 10-15 min window set by an online agent, in which to make connection, I’d have theoretically missed 14% of the trains that I’d been booked on to.

Hence a golden rule of booking an end-to-end journey by multiple trains, is not assuming that every train will depart and arrive on time, despite specific train departures being included on your ticket(s).
There is no guarantee that you will make these connections, hence it’s worth being aware of what protection you’ll have in these scenarios; and this article is of no use as proof as to what should and shouldn’t occur, with regard to how you can use the tickets you have been issued with.

At a minimum seek out and check the full terms and conditions of making a booking on the website you are purchasing your tickets from.

ShowMeTheJourney also advocates allowing 30mins to an hour to making connections on end-to-end journeys, because you’ll be more likely to have a more relaxed end-to-end journey.
Having to seek out a ticket office and then potentially having to wait in line to re-book against the clock, is a scenario that’s best avoided.

On those journeys above, if I had extended the transfer time even further and allowed 90 mins to make a connection, even if that meant booking separate tickets, I would have missed only one connection, because only one of those 246 trains was delayed by more than 90 mins.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

ShowMeTheJourney

This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.

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