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Germany’s train strikes: What rights do you have as a passenger?

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With passenger trains being affected from Monday, millions of passengers will face train cancellations and delays in the first half of the week. This includes holidaying travellers as it’s still the school holiday period in ten of Germany’s 16 states.

According to information on German railway company Deutsche Bahn’s website, it’s still offering “a reliable basic service”.

However, the railway adds that “in this situation we cannot guarantee that all travellers will reach their destination”. 

And it recommends postponing, if possible, any planned long-distance journeys until after the strikes finish on Wednesday.

You can find the latest information on affected services here.

If Deutsche Bahn are recommending postponing your journey, does that mean you can use your ticket on another date or a different train?
Yes. They say on their website that anyone who has booked a journey on the long-distance rail network between 23rd and 25th August on a route that’s affected by the strike can use their ticket flexibly any time from August 20th until September 4th.

And for saver and super-saver short and long-distance fares, you can use a different connecting train to what’s specified on your ticket during that period. 

You can change your seat reservation for free, too.  

If you’re using the local rail network, they say that if you already have a ticket you can use it straight away or up to and including 4th September, and you can use a different route if you need to.

But it’s not quite that simple for local train journeys: if you take a more expensive long-distance train, such as the ICE instead of the RE regional train, to complete your journey, you’ll need to first buy a dearer ticket or pay a surcharge and then claim the costs back later. However, this doesn’t apply to heavily discounted tickets, such as ‘Länder’ tickets.

Can you get a refund on your ticket?
Yes, if trains are not cancelled but you decide not to travel during the strike period, you can apply for a refund here if you bought your ticket online or in the DB travel centre if you purchased it there or from a machine.

Your ticket price will also be completely reimbursed if the strike would make your planned train arrive at least 60 minutes late and you don’t have to actually take the train to get the refund.

Do you get compensation for delays if you travel?
You do. If the train is delayed at the destination station by 60 minutes, you’ll get 25 percent of the ticket price back for a single journey and 50 percent for a delay of 120 minutes or more. 

So if, for example, you’ve booked a return ticket for 80 euros, you’ll get 10 euros compensation if the train’s delayed by at least 60 minutes on one of the journeys.

And if you have to interrupt your journey because of the strike and return to the station you started at, they’ll refund the unused portion of the journey. 

How is the compensation paid?
You can choose whether you’d like a voucher or the money back. 

What about if you’ve got a monthly ticket?
If you have a monthly ticket or some other kind of season ticket, you’ll receive compensation for delays of more than 60 minutes. There’s a flat rate for this, though: five euros for long-distance second-class tickets and ten euros for Bahncard 100.

For ‘Länder’ and ‘Schönes-Wochenende’ tickets, it’s 1.50 euros.

However, they’ll only pay out for amounts above 4 euros, so you might need to stack up receipts from a few delays.

Will the Bahn pay for taxis or hotel rooms?
There are two situations where Deutsche Bahn have to provide an alternative form of transport, German news website Tageschau said: if the scheduled arrival time is between midnight and 5 am and the expected delay at the destination station is at least 60 minutes, or if the last scheduled connection of the day is cancelled and it’s no longer possible to reach the destination station by midnight without a taxi.

If the railway doesn’t do this — if it’s the middle of the night, for example — you can get a taxi yourself and then get the railway to reimburse the costs — up to a maximum of 80 euros.

If a train is cancelled or delays mean it’s no longer possible or reasonable to continue the journey that day, the railway has to provide customers with overnight accommodation or reimburse “reasonable accommodation costs” later.

If offered, passengers have to use the accommodation offered by the railway before looking for a hotel themselves, though.

Can you still take your bike with you on the strike days?
On its website, Deutsche Bahn asks passengers to not take their bikes with them on the strike days as long-distance services are expected to be very busy because of the reduced number of trains.

But if you’re travelling on the long-distance network and you’ve already bought a ticket with a bike ticket and reserved a bike spot in advance, you can get your bike shipped for free on the strike days by booking it online using ‘Fahrrad23’ as a code in the payment box.

However, this is only valid for ‘conventional’ bicycles, not for e-bikes, tandems and recumbent bicycles, etc.

Commuters stand in front of an information board reading “GDL strike! No rail traffic!” on a platform at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof main railway station on August 11th, 2021, as train drivers staged a strike. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Are Deutsche Bahn doing anything to avert further strikes?
Yes, they’ve offered a ‘Corona bonus’ which will be paid out this year, but the sum hasn’t been specified yet. Martin Seiler, Deutsche Bahn’s Chief Human Resources Officer said this meant there could “no longer be any reason [for GDL] to refuse to return the negotiating table,” Tagesschau reported.

READ ALSO: German train drivers call strike in escalating wage dispute

READ ALSO: Rail passengers in Germany face disruption as two-day strike announced

What are the union looking for?
GDL want a corona premium of 600 euros for their members, better working conditions and a wage increase of around 3.2 percent. 

What has Deutsche Bahn offered?
They’ve countered with a two-stage increase — 1.5 percent by January 1st, 2022 and 1.7 percent by March 1st, 2023, but GDL head Claus Weselsky has said this is not enough.



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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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