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Train Platforms

Hopefully this will be my last question here regarding trains. My question is when we have to change trains to make connections, the DB Bahn site lists different platforms and their transfer times. Are these platforms relatively near each other. Also, I noticed that in at least one instance the platforms for train change were the same. Does that mean we just stay at the platform and wait for the next train? Finally, In Rome sometimes you have to validate your ticket before boarding. Does this apply to Germany as well?

Posted by
6811 posts

If you arrive and leave from the same platform you can stay there - or slip away for a snack if you have time before the next train comes.

"Are these platforms relatively near each other." Yes, generally speaking. But in major stations in large cities there can be tracks on different levels... the location of your targeted track may not be obvious... you may need to use escalators or elevators... Don't be afraid to ask train personnel.

You generally do not need to validate train tickets. But there are a few exceptions in certain places for certain special tickets.

Posted by
8661 posts

wilthomhow at the Deutsche Bahn website, there is a way to look at your train schedules, with links for "details" that can lead you to maps of each train station that you will need. That may help you figure out how far apart they are. Note that the tracks can and do change so you still need to check the signs when you get there.

Posted by
8889 posts

If your ticket has a specific trains listed on it, you don't need to validate it.
Most local (regional) tickets sold on the day are for that day only, so you don't need to validate those. It is only if it is an "open" ticket you need to validate (time stamp) it.
DB is unusual in putting platform numbers on their timetables. In Italy, for example, the platform numbers are only posted on departure boards 15-30 minutes before departure.

"Are these platforms relatively near each other." - since you don't say which stations and which platforms I have absolutely no idea. The DB timetable website ( www-bahn.de ) has the times it thinks you need to get from one platform to another pre-programmed into it. It will not offer a connection unless there is enough time.

"I noticed that in at least one instance the platforms for train change were the same". In which case you just stand there and wait for the next train. Sometimes a change is on the opposite side of the same platform, the two trains stop parallel to ech other. Also easy.

Posted by
8656 posts

One important bit of safety info regarding trains/platforms in Europe. That first step between the ground and the train can vary quite a bit and surprise a person into a fall. Even if you are "in a hurry" to transfer trains, take an extra second here, particularly if you are carrying luggage which might throw off your balance a bit.

Posted by
33339 posts

wil and thom

your question is a touch vague, I'm afraid. If you could be more specific many of us have personal knowledge of a lot of the common stations in Belgium and Germany. To ask an open question like "are these platforms relatively near each other" is to ask an unanswerable question without WHICH. Some stations are big, some small, some have interesting numbering schemes, and some - like Antwerpen - are spread out over 4 floors of tracks, and some like Gare de Lyon in Paris splits its station into two discrete areas identifying some platforms by number and others by letter; or the daddy of them all Gare Montparnasse in Paris which has 4 buildings.

Posted by
19171 posts

If you are using the Bahn schedule webpages, when it shows connections there will be a red box with a white 'V' facing to the right, >, at the left end of each connection. The 'V' points down when you click the box, and then all the trains in that connection are displayed, along with times and, usually, track numbers. At the bottom of these details will be a link to "at the train station". When you click on it, a list of all the service available at the first (originating) station and, at the bottom, a link to an illustration of the layout of the station (if the illustration exists, usually for major stations only). To the left side of the page are links to other stations on the route.

If you are not on the schedule pages, go to this page of the Bahn website and put the name of the town in the white box. Click the arrow. You will get a list of links for that name. If there are more than one station in the town, you'll get links to all of them. Clicking on a link will get you station information and a map, if available.

When you get to the designated platform, check the overhead sign (if there is one) for the destination, train number, departure (abfahrt) time, and intermediate stops. If you are substantially early, one or more trains might be using that platform before your train.

Track changes do occur, but the last time that happened to me was in 1988, 12 trips ago.

Posted by
11613 posts

My recent experience with track changes in Germany has been that they try to keep the same platform sharing two tracks. I heard announcements that "train XX arriving at Track #2 will now arrive at track #3", so you just walk to the other side from where you are standing. I have had one track change, it was helpful to know numbers 1-20 in German in case the announcement is not in several languages. Or just turn when everyone else does.

Posted by
19171 posts

"they try to keep the same platform sharing two tracks."

Most rail stations in Germany (Europe, actually) alternate between two tracks next to each other with platforms on either side serving two tracks. Most stations have a single platform next to the station serving track 1, with track 2 next to it being served by a platform the also serves track 3, etc. So track pairs 2 and 3, 4 and 5, etc, have common platforms, and changes between these pairs are cross-platform. However, a few stations (Kalsruhe and Offenburg, for example) do not have the platform next to the station. Instead track 1 is by itself and is served a platform that also serves track 2. So track pairs 1 and 2, 3 and 4, etc, are cross platform changes. The track numbers are conspicuously displayed over the tracks. If you get off of a train on track 4 and your connecting train is on track 5, but the track on the opposite side says 3, it means you have to change platforms.

Posted by
8889 posts

Lee, I don't think you can generalise like that about platform numbering schemes. I have seen all sorts.
Usually it is consecutively numbered 1, 2, 3 etc., but expect the unexpected.

  • Many Swiss stations start at platform 2 or 3, because they are counting tracks and 1 and 2 are freight or shunting tracks without passenger platforms.
  • Zürich HB has 1 to 18 in the main station, and 41 to 44, 31 to 34 and 21 to 22 as 3 different sub-surface levels.
  • Paris Gare de Lyon famously has a "Halle A" with platforms identified by letters A, C, D, E, G etc. and a "Halle B" with platforms 5, 7, 9 etc. (odd numbers only).
  • In Catalonia, odd numbered platforms head in one direction, even in the other, counting from the middle. So with 4 platforms it goes 3, 1, 2, 4.
  • Finally London King's Cross has a platform 0 (added on the end and they didn't want to re-number.) So it goes: 0, 1, 2 up to 8 in the main section, and 9, 10 and 11 in the annex, with a metal barrier between platforms 9 and 10.
Posted by
7468 posts

What are your transfer locations? There's several knowledgeable people on this forum who can put your mind at ease.

Posted by
20480 posts

Yesterday I stepped off the distance between platforms at Nuernberg Hbf, 60 ft center of the stairway to center of the stairway of the adjacent platform.

They will often hold connecting trains for 10 minutes or so if the inbound major train (ICE or IC) train is running a bit late. This happened to us in Leipzig Hbf on Sunday. We had a 7 minute connection there coming in from Berlin and we were 10 minutes late arriving, but they held the IC train long enough for everyone to make the change on the next platform.

That is nice, but it backfired on us when we left Eisenach. They held our train for 10 minutes so it could get passengers from a late arriving ICE. We had a 4 minute connection just outside Erfurt where we had to cross. Our "connection" pulled in immediately and we boarded, but 45 minutes later we arrived in Ilmenau to hear (in German) "End of the line, everybody please leave the train."
Got to the conductor and he plotted us back on course with his smart phone, writing the connections on a piece of paper. Our correct connection had been on time and we missed it, but coincidentally there was another train right behind that we boarded. When you get in a jam, people will help.

Posted by
19171 posts

"Yesterday I stepped off the distance between platforms at Nuernberg Hbf, 60 ft center of the stairway to center of the stairway of the adjacent platform."

Yes, people panic when they have to make a multi-platform change, but the time in the tunnel between the stairs is usually far less than the time to get to the stairs, go down to the tunnel, come up to the next platform, and get to your carriage.

"I don't think you can generalise like that about platform numbering schemes."

"Usually it is consecutively numbered 1, 2, 3 etc."

Isn't that generalizing? Yes, there are a lot of exceptions, but in general, track 1 has a platform next to the station and track 2 in beside it, sharing a platform with track 3, but there are some stations where track 1 and 2, 3 and 4 share a platform.

Frankfurt is one of the biggest stations I know of with 24 tracks ending in the station. Track 1 has it's own platform. Next to it, track 2 shares a platform with track 3, etc. In Munich, there are 32 tracks, although only 11 thru 26 are in the main shed. Tracks 5-10 are outside in the south Holzkirchen Bahnhof and Tracks 27 thru 36 are outside in the north Starnberger Bahnhof.

Mainz is different. The through tracks are 1 - 8. Eleven (which basically services regional trains to the Rhein gorge) is a stub track ending against the Bahnhof building, sharing a platform with track 1. In many stations with fewer than 10 thru tracks, tracks 11 and up are stub tracks in either direction. Sometimes those outlyers start with 101.

Bingen is totally unique, with tracks 101-103 on the northeast side of the wide platform on which the station sits. Tracks 201-203 are across the station platform, on the southwest side.

As stations evolve, tracks and/or platforms are eliminated, but the numbering system for the remaining tracks stays the same. In Nürnberg, the tracks are numbered consecutively from 1 to 8, then there is a gap to 12. Tracks 9 and 10 still exist; they just don't have platforms.

It's always good to have the layout for your particular station. The Bahn gives major ones, as does Swiss Rail. The Bayern-Takt website gives layouts for all stations in Bavaria.

BTW, Chris, if they added another platform at Kings Cross before platform '0', would it be '-1'?

Posted by
12040 posts

Sam- you mentioned Eisenach, Leipzig and Nürnberg in your post. That does it, you are obligated to file a trip report when you return!