VRR told Abellio that the “bad and unacceptable level of service, especially for the S-Bahn lines S3 and S9 plus regional line RE49” needed to be remedied by specific dates in June and July at the latest. Introduction of new S9 services using the 14km previously freight only Gelsenkirchen-Buer Nord - Recklinghausen line, originally scheduled for May 1, must now be introduced by September 15.

The warning followed notification by Abellio to VRR earlier in May when it revealed it was unable to provide sufficient resources to operate the contracted timetable.

Services have suffered from cancellations and delays since December despite frequencies being reduced and passenger numbers being very low due to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Abellio has experienced severe staff shortages, despite using contract staff as well as its own employees, and has insufficient trains to operate the timetable - Abellio has hired locomotive-hauled trains to operate S-Bahn Line S3 during May.

Abellio won a 15-year contract in July 2016 that came into force in December 2019 comprising 7.1 million train-km on the routes:

  • RB32 Dortmund – Duisburg (new service via Gelsenkirchen main station)
  • RB40 Hagen – Essen (already operated by Abellio)
  • RE49 Wesel – Wuppertal (partly new service, via Essen)
  • S2 Dortmund – Recklinghausen/Essen
  • S3 Oberhausen – Hattingen, and
  • S9 Hagen – Recklinghausen/Haltern am See (via Wuppertal and Essen).

Abellio is also due to begin operating a new VRR contract from June 14 when it takes over the RE1 Aachen - Cologne - Hamm route from DB Regio using new class 462 Desiro HC RRX EMUs from the VRR rolling stock fleet. Due to the continuing staff shortages, local media reports that Abellio has agreed to subcontract around half the RE1 service to DB Regio. In some cases, DB will use the existing push-pull trains as there is insufficient time to train DB drivers to operate the new trains.