Flixtrain: No Frills, Max Thrills

By Edward | Day Trains

Nov 30
Flixtrain

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Introducing the Flixtrain

You may have heard about the Flixtrain. The Flixtrain is a train service that is marketed by Flixbus, in competition with Deutsche Bahn.

Maybe you've been wondering how to use them. It isn't straightforward, as the Flixtrains operate totally outside the normal rail ticketing systems.

This post is to clear all this up. When you have finished you will know everything you need to know about how to use Flixtrain.

Flixtrain engine

Flixtrain "Vectron" engine at Cologne depot

Who are Flixbus, anyway?

In 2013 the German government, clutching at straws to support Germany's bloated and obsolete motor industry, deregulated long-distance coach travel by scrapping a law from 1935 (a Nazi law) that had made it very difficult to run long-distance coach services. This law was in place to protect the national rail operator.

It worked: coach companies mushroomed and there was a surge in orders for coaches.

How to Use Flixtrain

The Hamburg-Cologne Flixtrain at Hamburg-Altona railway station

Fast forward and the fastest and most furious start-up in the barrel has eaten up the competition and escaped: Flixbus. Now it is on a rampage across Europe and North America.

Flixbus see themselves as the Google of mass transit and only actually own one bus. They need it to call themselves a bus company. Flixbus work with subcontractors. Imagine Uber with buses. And now trains.

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Where do the Flixtrains go?

Flixtrain is working diligently to expand its network. The carriages it uses (RIC standard gauge) can go almost everywhere in continental Europe. As I write, there are Flixtrain services in Germany and Sweden. Flixtrain came close to launching in France, but were frustrated by the insane track access charges.

Flixtrain in Germany

The Flixtrain lines in Germany now form a veritable network. There are five lines: 

  • FLX 10: Berlin-Frankfurt-Stuttgart-Basel
  • FLX 15: Hamburg-Frankfurt-Stuttgart
  • FLX 20: Hamburg-Cologne
  • FLX30: Leipzig/Dresden-Berlin-Hanover-Cologne-Aachen
  • FLX35: Hamburg-Berlin-Leipzig

Bear in mind, these trains all link up with Flixbus services, so you can get a lot further using only Flix.

FlixTrain's network in Germany

Flixtrain in Sweden

Flixtrain also has what it calls a network in Sweden. This is currently one line from Göteborg to Stockholm.

Flixtrain's Swedish line

Onbord services offered by Flixtrain

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Wireless Internet

Wireless internet is a Flixbus non-negotiable. When their buses started to run they were famous for it, and it is arguably Flixbus that forced Deutsche Bahn to get off its complacent arse and make free WiFi available on all ICE trains, even in second class - long after it was standard in such advanced places as Slovakia.

On a side note, something similar happened in Austria when the Westbahn went into service in 2011 - WiFi was their thang. Just a few months later, ÖBB discovered they could make WiFi work on their Railjets after all

Not only do they have WiFi, they also now have a reasonable entertainment portal with films and series.

Power for your devices

Another Flix-Must is sockets for charging your phone and laptop. All places are equipped with power outlets.

Flixtrain Power outlet for charging your devices

Power outlet on Flixtrain with both 220V and USB-A sockets

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Seat reservations on Flixtrain

Flixtrain's seat numbering system reflects their coach mentality. It organises the seats into rows with numbers and seats A-D, like on a plane.

I didn't like it at first, but now I'm, like, whatever works.

Flixtrain reservation

Flixtrains seat numbering system

Note that beyond the seat numbers there is no indication that any particular seat is reserved. There is no electronic display or paper slip showing if a seat is actually reserved

What are the Flixtrains like?

Flixtrain now runs with a fleet of over 100 refurbished intercity carriages. They are capable of seating 100 people per carriage and can go as fast as 200 km/h (125mph).

Proven and robust technology

The main frames and chassis of the carriages are built in the 1960s and 1970s. They received new interior design in the late 1980s from Deutsche Bundesbahn (the ceiling from that refurb is still there, albeit painted). Then Flixtrain had the old seating removed and replaced with tightly packed new rows of new seats. They also updated the panelling to today's colour preferences.

What are flixtrains like?

Flixtrain carriage interior

Thin and upright

The seats I find quite comfortable. Personally, I prefer them to the ones on the ICE4. They are thin and without any reclining function. Upholstery is grey cloth, not slippery. The headrest is green synthetic leather.

What are Flixtrains like?

Flixtrain seats with grey fabric and green synthetic leather headrests

There is an arm rest, and each seat has a power outlet for your devices (see above).

Flixtrain carriages inside pictures

Leg room is OK if you are not too tall

The leg room is not overwhelming, but it is better than on most budget airlines. I'm 180cm tall, and here are my long legs.

Biological air conditioning with zero carbon footprint

One of the more unusual features of the Flixtrain is that it still has windows you can open - if only about 8 cm. Enough to let in fresh air, not enough for you to stick your head out.

In most Flixtrain carriages, this is the only ventilation there is. There is no air-conditioning. The good thing about this is that the a/c can't break down if it doesn't exist. Windows are a 100% dependable source of fresh air.

The problems begin in hot and humid weather. If you are trapped in a siding outside Darmstadt in the scorching sun, it gets uncomfortable. Even worse is if everyone gets on out of a summer rain and the windows are closed because it is coming down in buckets. Then it is like a greenhouse. 

Flixtrain window

Flixtrain's innovative Zero-Carbon ozone friendly air conditioner

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Great! So how can I get Flixtrain tickets?

Flixtrain tickets are not sold by the usual railway ticket offices. In fact, as mentioned earlier, the Flixtrains operate completely outside the pan-European ticketing system. No DB tickets are valid on Flixtrains, no Eurail or Interrail passes.

The Flixtrain appears in DB Navigator and bahn.de searches. DB will even sell you tickets for itineraries that include the Flixtrain. BUT: No DB ticket is ever valid for the Flixtrain. Ever.

Buying Flixtrain tickets online

Flixtrain tickets are easiest bought online. 

Flixbus's ticketing system is wonderfully easy to use. You can buy tickets online on their website, or download the Flixtrain app from the Apple or Google Play store. You don't have to set up an account (though that does make future bookings easier) and Flix accepts all kinds of electronic payment.

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You are issued with a QR code, either within the app, or as a ticket you can either print out or simply show on your mobile device. Having been on the inspecting end of this system, I have to hand it to Flixbus: it is a wonderful system, so easy to use. It is brilliant.

What I particularly like is that Flixbus has gone to the trouble of having its system in 35 European languages, including Macedonian and Catalan. You can even pay in Ukrainian Hryvnyas if you so choose.

Right. Any way of buying Flixtrain tickets offline?

I'm glad you ask. You can get Flixtrain tickets at most major coach-stations (bear with me). 

However, there is an increasing number of kiosks, newsagents and tobacconists that sell Flixbus and Flixtrain tickets. Look out for the Flixbus sign.

Another offline sales point is at Penny Markt. Penny is a German supermarket chain with a dense network of shops. It is more convenient to go to Penny than to the coach station.

Penny Markt Flixtrain

At any Penny Markt, go to the service terminal. 1. Enter your travel data. 2. Retrieve voucher. 3. Take voucher to cash desk, pay for your ticket. It is issued on thermal paper AND by email.

So how much do Flixtrain tickets cost?

Flixtrain claim on their own website that prices begin from €4,99. I'm sure there are one or two tickets to be had at that price, too.

A more reasonable price span is €20-€50, depending on how early you book and how busy the train is.

Is Flixtrain really competition?

This is what I think of Flixtrains:

Carriages

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Flixtrain Greenpeace

Flixtrains run on 100% renewable power

Why it is viable

Flixbus's concept offers something that no other privately-run train operator has been able to muster: a train service that is part of a greater network. 

Deutsche Bahn's ICEs and ICs are fed by regional trains and S-Bahns, and Deutsche Bahn can sell you a reasonably priced ticket for the whole journey. They can even rent a car out to you at your destination.

Flixtrains are fed by, and feed, Flixbuses. Together they form a network. Flixbus can sell you a ticket that begins on a bus, goes on to a train, then back onto another bus. Though Flixtrains run isolated from the other trains, they are closely knit into the Flixbus network. And this generates the critical mass of passengers needed to sustain a train service.

The return of third class travel 

Deutsche Bahn's newest trains have soft LED-lighting that adjusts to the time of day even in the second class, fair trade coffee and organic salads. In doing so, they have left a huge market behind. 

Flixtrain is bringing back basic train travel, at a time when it is desperately needed. There is nothing wrong with that. In France, SNCF are doing the same with their OUIGO trains.

Lots of people welcome this - students, pensioners, even business travellers.

Flixtrain Sunrise

Flixtrain going forth towards the rising sun

Flixtrain gets its people from one place to another reasonably comfortably, at a reasonable speed and at a reasonable price.

For this reason, it is hard to see Flixtrain as competition for Deutsche Bahn because a sizeable amount of the Flixtrain customers never used Deutsche Bahn's trains in the first place. 

Flixtrain is opening train travel to people who never went by train, and that is fantastic

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Give it a try

Now we've reached the end of this post. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Flixtrain is one of the most exciting developments so far on the European fast-train market. In some countries like Austria, Italy and Czechia there is competition on the railways. I reviewed new Romanian operator Astra Trans Carpatic in another.

In Germany, so far, competition has failed. Germany, with its huge motor lobby, is a hostile environment for anyone wanting to run trains. Now Flixbus, of all people, have entered the train market with a singular focus on low prices, and combined with their extensive bus network it looks as if the Flixtrains have come to stay. At least for the next few years.

Flixtrain Nightjet

Flixtrain waiting at Cologne depot

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About the Author

After crisscrossing Europe for 6 years as a train conductor, I guide intrepid travellers roaming Europe by rail.

  • David Rodriguez says:

    Nice article
    How is it possible they are so check with regard to Deutsche Bahn?

    I always thought what I pay for a train ticket is like half of its real value (with the government paying the other half).

    Will they open more lines?

    cheers,

    PS: offtopic: it is important to know where the food comes from and people have decent jobs

    • Edward says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I totally agree with you that it is important to know where the food comes from and that people have decent jobs.

      In the spring of 2019 I know there is going to be a Flixtrain between Berlin and Cologne. That is all I can confirm, because my company will be running it.

      Flixtrain tickets are cheap because Flixtrains eliminate all unnecessary luxuries and get people from A to B. Our trains are old, but functional. The only frill they have is Wifi and power outlets.

      I hope to see you one day on one of my trains.

      Cheers

      Edward

  • Steve Stark says:

    Looks like the Hamburg to Lörrach night train might be dead. I’m not seeing any trains on the Flixtrain search.
    The BTE website shows the next parent train isn’t until April; so do they not book that far ahead?

    Anyway, this slow death of night trains in Europe makes me sad.

    • Edward says:

      Hi Steve, sorry it has taken so long for me to answer. The Hamburg-Lörrach Flixnight isn’t dead, just in suspended animation. It is one carriage running at the end of the BTE AutoReiseZug and can only run when the BTE train runs – and that is a very seasonal affair. I understand that there are to be more AutoReiseZug services this summer than last, and all of them with the Flixnight carriage.

      As for the slow death of the night trains, I truly believe that we have got the worst behind us, what with #flygskam, and ÖBB’s long term commitment to its Nightjets.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Ronnie says:

    I am planning to take Flix train from Berlin to Darmstadt this weekend, but can’t find information as to exactly where does Flix train depart from in the central station?

  • Kim says:

    I’m taking the FlixTrain from Cologne to Berlin. How can I find the platform or the name of the train company? Thx in adv.

    • Edward says:

      Normally it should be both announced and shown on the departure boards. What I can tell you is that usually the Flixtrain goes from platforms 2 or 3 from Cologne Central / Köln Hbf.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for reading!

      Edward

  • Bill Stark says:

    Hey, Edward, are you going to comment on Flixtrain expanding into France? They are going to include a night train, so perhaps it will be runs with the CNL stock operating on that boring Berlin to Cologne route?

    (Maybe my dream for a reincarnated Paris to Budapest Oriente Express isn’t dead!)

  • guest says:

    why do the train seats look so unclean?

  • David says:

    In summer we booked two tickets for two persons and for two bicyles to Berlin. – Then for a bad surprise the train didn’t had any place for bicyles! Lucklily the bikes were transported in the bistro. Other cyclist had to put there bikes to the toilet for disabled people.
    The conductor told me that often trains were missing the coaches with compartments for bicyles. Next time he won’t let enter cyclists then… – Hey, this is a complete no-go when one buys a service that the service _can’t_ even be fullfilled!

    • Edward says:

      I seem to remember having that train in the summer. Perhaps you were with me!

      I agree with you 100%. There hasn’t been a train without bicycle facilities for quite a while now. Throughout the autumn I always had at least one bicycle car. So I hope that if you go on the Flixtrain again, you have better luck.

      Thank you for reading.

  • Kim from Texas says:

    Do any of these Flix trains have sleeper compartments?

    • Edward says:

      Hi Kim, sorry for my late reply! The Flixnight service that runs during the summer between Hamburg and Lörrach – that has got couchettes. There is no Flixtrain with sleeper compartment. Thank you for reading!

  • crm says:

    flix stuttgart – berlin
    train sets off 57 minutes late
    virtually no heating in the carriages in late December
    Power sockets are in but don’t work
    WIFI see above
    Toilets. I know they have them i can smell them from a mile off, not sure I want to get too intimate with them.
    All seems a bit chaotic. Still €39,00 yer get what yer pays for.

    • Edward says:

      Oh dear. I’m sorry it didn’t all go to plan. Did the train make good some of the delay? And were there useable loos in the other carriages? I’ve never been on the Stuttgart-Berlin Flix, but I understand they can field up to twelve carriages.

      • crm says:

        unfortunately not, still an hour late in Berlin.
        I did find one toilet and it was in good condition, I counted 13 toilets from one end of the train 3 were usable, i might add that not usable means locked up with a defekt sign from the start. I think they have 20 in total, I never checked passed the thirteenth.

  • Toby says:

    Great summary of information about Flixtrain. Do Leo, BTK and SVG own their actual train-cars they are operating or do they borrow them from Flixtrain?

    How big is the traincrew on each departure?

    Do you think it is easy to make some money running trains for FlixTrain?

    • Edward says:

      Hi Toby,

      I know that Leo Express leases most of its carriages, as did its predecessor Locomore. BTE owns many of its carriages, but has some leased ones too. About SVG I really cannot say. I understand that more than a hundred carriages are being refurbished for Flixtrain purposes, and to Flixtrain’s specifications. But I don’t know who actually owns them.

      Thank you for reading and for your comment!

      • Toby says:

        Thanks for the info. Does that mean that Leo leases it carriages from Flix?

        • Edward says:

          No. Flix doesn’t own any carriages outright as far as I know. Leo leases most of its carriages from a company called SRI Rail Invest, as did its predecessor Locomore. There are also a lot of carriages in circulation leased from Heros, another rolling stock company.

  • Anamaria Lj. says:

    Is there another Flixtrain from Mannheim to Stuttgart? I searched for one which departs during midday, but it seems there is only one in the evening. I would prefer taking the train instead of the bus since it’s a lot faster.

    • Edward says:

      Hi Anamaria,

      I was rather surprised by your comment. I didn’t know the Flixtrain stopped at Mannheim. It is neither in the timetables nor on the Flixtrain map.

      But a search in the search engine DOES bring up a late evening Flixtrain from Mannheim to Stuttgart. Who’da thunk it. And it is much faster, you are right.

      On Mondays, and from Thursdays to Sundays there is an early Flixtrain, but this doesn’t seem to stop at Mannheim, only at Heidelberg. You would have to get yourself to Heidelberg by 12:46 PM, from there it is 46 minutes to Stuttgart.

      Hope this helps.

  • this is amazing post thanks for haring information with us

  • Sophia says:

    Woww amazing article, I liked it. Thanks a lot for your hard work

  • Sammy h says:

    Does Flixtrain receive any subsites from the government? If not how do they make a profit when DBbhan has to get billions of Euros from the governemnt.

  • Karin says:

    Lousy service, trains always cancelled, or parts of the journey . Ruin your trip with Flix!

  • Prapti says:

    I am wondering if I should consider booking a FlixTrain over a DB ICE (both day time, 8 hr long) Vs booking a Nightjet (10 hrs but overnight couchett). Route is Basel SBB to Berlin.

    Ofcourse, FlixTrain is the cheapest of all (Euro34.99) Vs Eur100+ for the other two options. Any suggestions?

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