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Delayed train? Germany’s Deutsche Bahn to give online refunds for first time

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn is allowing customers to reclaim money via its Bahn app for a ticket purchased online or on a mobile device for the first time from June onwards.

Delayed train? Germany's Deutsche Bahn to give online refunds for first time
A Deutsche Bahn train in Berlin on April 28th. picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

“In the future, reimbursement via smartphone will be child’s play and done in five minutes with just a few clicks,” announced Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz earlier this week. 

“Our customers no longer have to search for train numbers or submit paper tickets. With this, we are making compensation much easier.”

In general, customers can get 25 percent of their fare back from Deutsche Bahn if they arrive at their destination at least one hour late. For a delay of two hours, half of the fare is refunded.

Eliminating a cumbersome process

Until now, travellers had to print out the so-called passenger rights form after a delay, fill it out and send it to DB by mail. 

They could also hand in the application at one of the travel centres in the train stations. For years, customers have been criticising this time-consuming procedure.

Numerous startups even sensed a gap in the market and offered a corresponding online service themselves: Customers submit their delay and train information digitally to the companies, which then take care of the analogue correspondence with DB for a commission. 

READ ALSO: How German start-ups are profiting from Deutsche Bahn delays

Deutsche Bahn goes digital 

Online reimbursement is just one part of DB’s general digital restructuring. The state-owned company is gradually converting and expanding its app, the DB Navigator.

Eighty percent of all bookings are now handled online, it said.

For some time now, travellers have also been able to check in by smartphone on the train. But it’s also now possible to automatically transfer reservations in the event of an unscheduled train change.

The new refund option, however, does not mean the end of the passenger rights form, said DB. Anyone who wants to can continue to claim their money back via the paperwork route. 

The passenger association Pro Bahn spoke out favour of the new option. 

“This is part of a modern railroad, that you can fill out this refund form electronically,” honourary chairman Karl-Peter Naumann told DPA.

“It is important that the railroads also continue to offer the analog passenger rights form alongside this. 

There are still many people who prefer this way.”

Increased punctuality amid pandemic

Yet the need for refunds may become fewer and further between in future. A total of 81.8 percent of all long distance and regional trains through DB arrived at their destination on time in 2020, the highest number in 15 years. 

The year before the rate stood at 75.9 percent. Deutsche Bahn considers a train to be on time if it arrives less than six minutes after the scheduled time.

The company reported particularly high punctuality in regional transport, with 95.6 percent of all DB Regio trains reaching their stations on schedule. 

Yet according to DB, about half of the increase in punctuality was due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic. It remains to be seen whether the company will stay on track amid the summer travel season.

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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