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If I understand correctly, at a railway station Gleis designates the (rail)track while Bahnsteig is the platform.

When giving information about where to go to catch a train, do we usually refer to the Gleis (which is actually where the train is) or to the Bahnsteig (like it is done in English)?

Are there regional differences? (I mean between Hochdeutsch, Austrian German, Swiss German...)

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In Swiss-German you use "Perron" oder "Kante" but Bahnsteig. –  alk Oct 2 '13 at 16:01

3 Answers 3

It has a unique usage, there is not regional difference.

Actually, it's just a logical problem. Gleis (rail track) is where the train approaches, Bahnsteig (platform) is where the people are waiting.

A train can approach am Bahnsteig 3 or auf Gleis 3, pay attention to am and auf; am means alongside the platform, auf means it goes on the rail track. The station announcement can use both versions, it doesn't matter, both ones are correct. They just should use the proper preposition to hold back people from entering the rail track or prevent the train to jump on the platform, respectively. ;)

Examples to check:

  • "Der Zug hat Einfahrt auf Gleis 3!" vs. "Der Zug hat Einfahrt am Bahnsteig 3!"
  • Note "Bitte begeben Sie sich zum Bahnsteig 3, der Zug hat Einfahrt auf Gleis 2!" could be used, if platform 2 is closed because of a a building lot and platform 3 is alongside rail track 2 also.
  • zu is possible with "Bahnsteig" and "Gleis"; the announcement "Bitte begeben Sie sich zu Gleis 3" expects you know what to do in that case, and you can choose the platform by yourself
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„Der Zug hat Einfahrt“? Do they really say that? –  Carsten Schultz Oct 2 '13 at 14:55
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@Carsten Schultz: na klar, ist doch offizielle Ansagensprache der Bahn, zumindest als ich noch damit gefahren bin. Findet man auch tausendfach im Internet. –  falkb Oct 2 '13 at 15:13
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@CarstenSchultz: Sie sagen es tatsächlich. An der Richtigkeit zweifle ich. –  rimrul Oct 2 '13 at 19:37
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@Stan: Ursprünglich ist Zug nicht das Transportmittel, sondern die Bewegung. Der Zug dieser Vögel endet in Afrika. –  chirlu Oct 2 '13 at 22:35
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@CarstenSchultz I also heard Am Gleis 1 erhält Einfahrt.. –  user5513 Feb 26 at 15:39

I would say both are fine colloquially.

But if you want to give travel information to someone, I would prefer using:

Gleis

You can see this on every travel information page from the Deutsche Bahn or similar services. They always refer to a "Gleis" instead of a "Bahnsteig".

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When giving information about where to go to catch a train, do we usually refer to the Gleis (which is actually where the train is) or to the Bahnsteig (like it is done in English)?

Additionally to falkb: Both terms are used.

It's always the tracks (Gleise) which are numbered and never the platforms (Bahnsteige). However, the platform next to a certain track might be referred to with the track number.

For instance Am Bahnsteig 1 and Am Bahnsteig 2 can denote the same platform with two tracks (one on each side).

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