Deutsche Bahn’s Navigator app is the first point of contact for many passengers when it comes to buying tickets. But if you want to travel with another provider or are looking for trips abroad, you won’t get very far on the platform.

Connections from the competitor Flixtrain or the night train provider European Sleeper (ES) are displayed in the app. There is no price information or even a purchase option. The start-up European Sleeper, which has been offering a night train connection between Berlin and Brussels for almost a year, wants to involve the Federal Cartel Office.

“It would be no technical effort at all to offer our trips on the railway’s digital platforms,” said co-founder Elmer van Buuren to the German Press Agency. The federal government, as the owner of Deutsche Bahn, must be keen to advance rail transport in Germany as a whole and not just the offers of its own company. “If the federal government owns a railway with a sales platform that is as well-known as the DB Navigator, then it is very suitable for helping to shape this change towards trains.”

Already possible in other countries

In Belgium and the Czech Republic, ES tickets can already be purchased on the platforms of the dominant rail providers. But despite years of discussions, the railway continues to refuse to sell competing tickets. European Sleeper will therefore write a letter to the cartel office in the coming weeks, van Buuren announced. The authority should check whether the railway does not have to give up its position.

Van Buuren makes no secret of the fact that he also has his own economic interests at heart. “The fact that the railway refuses to sell our tickets threatens our existence in the long term,” he emphasized. “We are a young company. We need every ticket sale to keep going.” ES is dependent on the railway’s sales platform. Next week the company will expand its connections from Berlin towards Prague.

Deutsche Bahn is legally obliged to provide non-discriminatory information about connections from other companies. This is not the case when booking tickets. The group decides “on the basis of business decisions who it cooperates with,” said a spokeswoman. “In the case of the European Sleeper, the connections are of course displayed. A sales cooperation is currently not planned.”

Flix: “Dominating market position”

The Flix travel platform has been competing with the railways in long-distance transport for years. The tickets for the green trains cannot yet be purchased via the Navigator. “DB’s sales channels have a dominant market position. There is no alternative for trains in Germany,” the company said. “Therefore, all providers must be displayed equally and can be booked. This is currently not the case in long-distance transport. There is a need for action.”

The Pro Bahn passenger association also sees it that way. “We are of the opinion that the sale of train journeys, regardless of which railway company, is offered on a central platform,” said chairman Detlef Neuß of the German Press Agency. “It can be the DB Navigator.”

When trains cross national borders

The train is particularly concerned with journeys to other European countries. If you want to travel from Aachen to a conference in Barcelona, ​​for example, you have to buy a separate ticket from the relevant provider for each leg of the journey in the respective country. “If any provider along this travel chain doesn’t travel or is delayed, then you’ll look stupid and have to buy a new ticket,” said Neuß.

The problem from his point of view: There is a lack of agreement between the different transport companies, especially with regard to passenger rights. There is a need for a compensation mechanism for passenger compensation between companies if, for example, a customer misses their connecting train on the French state railway due to a delay on Deutsche Bahn. “This can only be regulated by law,” said Neuß.