When you buy a Normalpreis (regular fare, anytime, fully flexible) ticket for use on German railways, you might be asking yourself what the route description (Wegetext; Raumbegrenzung) on your ticket means.
For example, a ticket from Hannover to Berlin will be issued „VIA: LEHR*(SDL*BSP/HE*EILS*MD*GSN)*BGS„. (Yes, the ticket issued will be „Hannover -> Berlin“, not „Hannover Hbf -> Berlin Ostbahnhof“ or „Hannover Anderten/Misburg -> Berlin Warschauer Str.“ as station grouping will apply.)
- Each routeing point (Leitpunkt) (LEHR, SDL…) denominates a station of major importance. For example, LEHR is Lehrte, SDL is Stendal, MD is Magdeburg, BGS is Berlin-Gesundbrunnen. Many such acronyms are in fact derived from the German car licence plate acronyms, but not all are (NILA for example is a riddle to most but means Niederlahnstein, in Rhineland-Palatinate). Lists of routeing points (Verzeichnis der Leitpunkte) are floating around on the internet. The official German railway routeing guide (Tfv 603 – Entfernungszeiger) also includes a list of routeing points but is unfortunately not publicly available – if you know anyone working in a DB Travel Centre or at a rail appointed travel agent (Agentur) they may be able to help you though.
- Stars (*) are simple delimiters that separate routeing point acronyms from each other.
- A room restriction (Raumbegrenzung) is defined by use of brackets and slashes. In this example, the room is defined between LEHR (Lehrte) and BGS (Berlin Gesundbrunnen), any route between SDL*BSP (Stendal and Berlin-Spandau) and HE*EILS*MD*GSN (Helmstedt, Eilsleben (bei Magdeburg), Magdeburg and Güsen (bei Genthin)). As this is a room definition you can travel on any of these two routes or, if available, any route between these two limitations.
(In fact, between Hannover-Berlin, you only have the choice between these two routes but it may be different if you are travelling between Hamburg and Stuttgart and have a VIA of HH*HAR*(H/K*KO)*BIET*S on your ticket, which allows you to travel on any route between Hamburg-Harburg – Hannover – Bietigheim-Bissingen, or Hamburg-Harburg – Köln – Koblenz – Bietigheim-Bissingen – a true multitude of detours awaits you!)
It is important to stick to the route description on your ticket, especially as different routes (such as Cologne-Frankfurt via Koblenz (the slower Rhenish route) vs. Cologne-Frankfurt via Montabaur/Limburg (the new high speed route)) may not be included in the same route description and may be priced differently, despite both being operated by DB Fernverkehr and both served by through trains. If you board an intercity service with the wrong ticket, you will be asked to pay an excess fare, and if you board a local / regional service you may even be fined.
As another example, let’s take routeing map KY (London King’s Cross to York / Scarborough) of the UK National Routeing Guide and turn it into a Via description. (The German equivalent of the National Routeing Guide that is called Tfv 603 (Entfernungszeiger) and includes maps and permitted routes is not available to the public, so for the purpose of this example we will use a UK railway map.)
It would be represented as
London*(Kings Cross/Essex Road*Highbury and Islington)*Finsbury Park*Alexandra Palace*(Hatfield/Hertford North)*Stevenage*Hitchin*Peterborough*(Grantham*Newark*Retford/Spalding*Sleaford*Lincoln)*Doncaster*(Wakefield*Leeds/Selby)*York*Scarborough
Note Doncaster*(Wakefield*Leeds/Selby)*York. Even though the map allows three routes from Doncaster to York – via Wakefield and Leeds, direct, and via Selby, only two routes are mentioned within the bracket. The direct route that goes through in between these two is not mentioned in the room restriction. But it is neither required nor allowed to use more than one slash within a bracket as the room restriction does not enumerate alternative routes but simply defines the two borders of the room!
In short, with CRS codes in place of stations/locations:
Often, however, only a few routeing points (four up to ten) are printed on a ticket so you will not usually find such a long „via“ on your ticket.