Ageing infrastructure, frequent delays and workers that regularly stage strikes -- critics warn Germany's creaking railways are ill-prepared for an influx of football fans descending on the country during Euro 2024.

Once held up as a symbol of German efficiency and punctuality, the country's train network has been increasingly beset by problems in recent years due to what observers say is chronic underinvestment.

Passengers regularly complain of issues from breakdowns to cancelled services and shuttered restaurant carriages.

Last year 36 percent of long-distance German trains were unpunctual, defined as six minutes or more past their scheduled arrival time by operator Deutsche Bahn, which blamed factors from the railways' poor condition to frequent construction work.

The worsening condition of the network was a worry for Paul Goodwin, co-founder of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, who had a warning for the country's army of travelling fans.

"Beware Scotland fans -- make sure you are taking the earlier train," he told AFP, adding those staying far from venues would likely be reliant on the railways to get to and from games.

"Get out of the pub a little bit quicker. Give yourself extra time... The last thing you want is to turn up at half time."

He predicted up to 40,000 Scotland fans, most without match tickets, will make their way to Germany for the tournament, which runs from mid-June to mid-July and kicks off with a Scotland verus Germany clash in Munich.

- Fans 'not easy to handle' -

Deutsche Bahn however insists it is ready for the arrival of tens of thousands of extra passengers from across Europe.

It is providing an additional 10,000 train seats a day around match days, offering discounted fares for match ticket holders and has even rolled out a Euros-themed train decked out with tournament logos.

Meanwhile organisers have sought to make life easier for visitors. During the group stages, each team will play in one of three different geographic areas of Germany -- south, north or west -- meaning less travel for supporters and teams.

Despite the rail operator's Euros PR push, recent headlines have been dominated by its woes, from the parlous state of the network to widening financial losses and waves of crippling strikes.

The operator has announced plans for an extensive overhaul of the railways by 2030, although major work on this will only get underway once the Euros wrap up.

With frequent repairs causing delays in recent times, Deutsche Bahn plans to reduce construction activities to a minimum around the tournament in a bid to lessen disruptions.

But a spokeswoman conceded that "we cannot do without construction work altogether as we urgently need to clear the backlog from the last few years".

While hopeful the railways can handle the extra burden, German rail passenger association Pro-Bahn warned even small problems could have knock-on effects.

"If there are delays at some point, then they will certainly spread through the entire network, and there will be disruptions," the group's Karl-Peter Naumann told AFP.

"Then the question is of course how the fans behave. Sometimes, when they have drunk a lot of beer, they are not so easy to handle."

- 'A little patience' -

Worries about staff safety prompted union EVG -- which represents around 180,000 rail personnel, and paralysed the network with a series of strikes last year -- to threaten industrial action during the Euros if security was not improved.

If the situation does not get better "we will ensure that the trains do not run", EVG board member Kristian Loroch told the Tagesspiegel newspaper earlier this month.

It came as an EVG staff survey showed about 64 percent of 4,000 respondents saying they had experienced a physical or verbal attack in the past 12 months.

Deutsche Bahn subsequently announced it was boosting security staff during the tournament, with extra personnel in particular for stations at venues and on the trains to them.

Some are more optimistic about the German railway's prospects during the Euros.

World Cup winner Philipp Lahm, who is tournament director, told AFP in a recent interview that Euro 2024 was a "good opportunity to show that... the infrastructure works in Germany".

But he also had a message for fans: "A little patience won't hurt. Not everything will be perfect."