For my trip to Berlin’s aeronautical fair ILA 2022 I discovered a new option between Leipzig and the capital operated by long-distance champion FlixBus. The FlixTrain as it is naturally called travels three times a day between Leipzig Central Station and Berlin Central Station via Berlin Südkreuz. ‚
Both trains continue to Hamburg. Service is limited to one train on weekends.
On paper this is one of the best alternative train options out there, as it is almost as fast as Deutsche Bahn’s ICE trains. Even on the long leg to Hamburg FlixTrains just lag 14 minutes behind the white and red bullet trains.
Prices are competitive as well: A one-way fare from Leipzig to Hamburg, midweek, booked three weeks in advance is just 9.99 Euros – compared to 19.70 Euros plus a 4 Euro seat reservation on Deutsche Bahn. Leipzig – Berlin starts as low as 4.99 Euros including a reserved seat.
So a no brainer, hipster-cool alternative to Germany’s „Federal Railway“? Well sort of – but only if the green train keeps a‘ rollin‘ and that’s where the trouble started. The day before I wanted to travel I got a text saying that my outbound ride had, unfortunately, been cancelled, we are so sorry, you will receive a full refund. The money got indeed booked back to my account within a few days without having to send in any claim forms. The short notice however meant I had to fork out 20.15 Euros for a full fare one-way ticket on Deutsche Bahn!
The return trip also didn’t go to plan. After a day full of flightseeing at ILA2022 and BER I waited for my train back to Leipzig in Berlin Südkreuz. The sheduled departure time came and went, while I watched in awe how the delay piled on in the FlixTrain app. In the end we arrived almost 2 HRS late.
A little net research revealed that FlixTrains operational reliability is generally rather low. What’s also a problem is that these trains have a low priority in the train system, so once they are late they will clock up more and more delays because they have to let other trains overtake them.
Another issue is that FlixTrains are somewhat unwelcome guests at Deutsche Bahn stations and the plattforms are notoriously hard to find. This isn’t helped by the fact that the trains also use the FlixBus app, which does give you the street adress of your train staion in very full details but no track or plattform infos whatsoever.
When my train finally arrived, I wished it hadn’t. No details, but sitting in a delayed train with no aircondition for hours on end makes the strongest deodorant fail…
Also, the floor of my car was littered with beer and energy drink cans and the train attendant was heavily pierced, tattooed and cluless yet very blase. Like in a Berlin club, come to think of it.