All the information you need for accessible rail travel in Germany, the Netherlands and France.
We need to break down barriers in train travel and make it accessible for all, so as a team, we’ve always been about helping people use rail more. Although we know that the world of rail travel has a long way to go in order to cater for every traveller’s needs, we are trying to get things started by providing all the information you might need in one place. Further to our blog on accessible rail travel on Eurostar, in UK, Spain and Italy, here are more details for anyone travelling to France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Accessible rail travel in France
The national French train operator, SNCF, has an impressive Accès Plus service, which provides a companion to meet you at the station and then also help you to your seat. The Accès Plus support companion will also help with one bag up to 15kg. If you have more luggage than that, they have a Door-to-Door service which is on offer to all travellers at a cost, but you get a 25% discount. In order to get Accès Plus service, you must be a holder of a disability card.
You need to be a little bit organised and contact the team at least two days before travel. Call +33 890640650 internationally or, if you are in France, 36 35 from a landline, and say the words “Accès Plus”. These calls are charged, however, so we suggest going for the email option instead: [email protected]. There is also a very informative bespoke website but it is only in French. More importantly this site is available to people with hearing issues using an online a webcam support team, Monday to Friday between 08.30 and 17.30.
Depending on your mobility needs, you may also qualify for the Accès Plus Transilien free service, which offers support in many Paris RER stations. As long as you are travelling between 07.00-20.00 and notify them 24 hrs in advance. You also have to be travelling to and from stations that offer these facilities. Find out more about each station here.
You may also be interested in our other blog post on accessible rail travel, which includes Eurostar’s efforts to help travellers with all needs.
Accessible rail travel in Germany
Germany is a country which also goes out of its way to ensure that visitors with all needs are welcome, with its Barrier Free Travel website. After you have discovered a wealth of inclusive tourism activities, from accessible hiking trails, sensory walks in national parks and wheelchair friendly tree canopy walks, you can call national operator Deutsche Bahn’s mobility helpline +49 1806512512 for more details on how to get assistance along the way.
Calls are charged at €0.20 cents per call from a German landline, max. 60 cents per call from a German mobile network; costs for calls from abroad depend on your provider. They are open for calls every day from 06:00 to 22:00 but you can also email them at [email protected].
In Germany there are 3,825 accessible stations with ramps, lifts or increased platform height and you can contact the MSZ to find out more details on these. If you are visually impaired, you can call +49 8001507090 for an auditory timetable.
Accessible rail travel in the Netherlands
Accessibility isn’t double Dutch for travel and tourism businesses in the Netherlands. Accessible Travel Netherlands is a great one-stop shop for discovering a world of accessible bikes, boats and beaches. The Holland tourist board is also a font of information. For example, if you are travelling to Amsterdam, they provide a very useful accessible city map. Another great initiative is a website where you can find out which beaches have accessible beach wheelchairs on them - we need more initiatives like this around the world please. In terms of train travel in the Netherlands, the national rail operator NS is pretty switched on to catering for all. To request assistance you can contact the NS Service desk 24/7 on +31 30 2357822. If you are hearing impaired, you can WhatsApp your request for assistance to +31 683644197.
NS is probably one of the clearest websites in terms of laying out accessibility facilities. They differentiate between accessible train travel within the Netherlands and international rail journeys for assisting travellers. They have an NS Travel Assistance service at over a hundred stations You can book your train travel within the Netherlands through our website and book assistance at the other end through NS’s service. However, if you need to book a wheelchair space on the train you need to book online or the via the NS app, making sure that you created a travel assistance profile. To be absolutely sure, you can call them on +31 302357822 and check all the details with a real person, who is an expert in catering for special needs.
If you are travelling with your own wheelchair in the Netherlands, please note that maximum dimensions are 150cm long, 70cm wide and 137.5cm tall. The combined weight of you and your manual wheelchair must not exceed 200kg (300kg for electric wheelchairs) if you need assistance. You will also have to ensure that your luggage can be transported yourself. For international travel in and out of the Netherlands, there are different conditions for people travelling with access needs depending on whether you are travelling with Intercity Brussels. Thalys, ICE International or TGV. See NS’ international rail travel with impaired mobility page for more details.
All photos ©RailEurope.
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