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If you can save travel cost, obviously you take the cheaper alternative (fly). Usually flights are cheaper than going by train, but sometimes that isn't the case.

If it is relevant, I am in the public service sector.

What is the German regulation for how long the train travel can be and still remain "zumutbar" (acceptable/reasonable/bearable)?

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    this depends a lots of how much you can work during this travel. – Kepotx Feb 15 at 9:53
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tl;dr:

There is no explicit regulation on what is acceptable, but the employee's needs must probably be taken into account (to some degree).


what is the German regulation in public service for how long the train travel can be "zumutbar" (acceptable/reasonable/bearable)?

First: There is no totally general answer, as different parts of the public service have different regulations (federal regulations, regulations of a federal state (Bundesland), local regulations). However, the most important regulations are the "laws on travel costs" (Reisekostengesetz):

  • Bundesreisekostengesetz - applies to federal civil servants (directly to judges and Beamten, indirectly to other employees, via §44 TVöD)
  • Landesreisekostengesetz - exists for each federal state (Bundesland)

Since the regulations are quite similar, I will focus on the Bundesreisekostengesetz. The Bundesreisekostengesetz only says:

§ 4 (1) Entstandene Kosten für Fahrten auf dem Land- oder Wasserweg mit regelmäßig verkehrenden Beförderungsmitteln werden bis zur Höhe der niedrigsten Beförderungsklasse erstattet. Für Bahnfahrten von mindestens zwei Stunden können die entstandenen Fahrtkosten der nächsthöheren Klasse erstattet werden. Wurde aus dienstlichen oder wirtschaftlichen Gründen ein Flugzeug benutzt, werden die Kosten der niedrigsten Flugklasse erstattet.

English:

§4 (1) The cost for travel on land or water with scheduled means of transport will be compensated up to the cost for the lowest travel class. For train trips of at least two hours the cost for the next higher travel class can be compensated. If a plane was used for job-related or economic reasons, the cost of the lowest travel class will be compensated.

I did not find any regulation on maximum acceptable travel times.

However, the detailed regulations (Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Bundesreisekostengesetz (BRKGVwV)) say:

2.1.9 [...] Die Zahl der Teilnehmenden und die Dauer der Dienstreise sind auf das notwendige Maß zu beschränken.

2.1.10 1 Bei Anordnung oder Genehmigung einer Dienstreise sind die Grundsätze der Wirtschaftlichkeit und Sparsamkeit sowie der Fürsorge zu berücksichtigen.

English:

2.1.9 [...] The number of participants and the duration of the trip must be limited to what is necessary.

2.1.10 When ordering a trip, the principles of economy and Frugality and also the care for the employee must be considered.

In summary, this means that while there are no general rules for how long the travel may take, the employer must take both economic reasons and the needs of the employee into account - that means that they must seek a compromise between the most convenient and and the most economic itinerary. Where exactly on that spectrum the decision must fall is not specified.

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