Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Deutsche Bahn rant

There was a point in my life when I thought that Deutsche Bahn was the most punctual train service. I thought that for a very long time and I think it’s the popular opinion amongst many people.

My opinion has altered due to latest events though. First my train from Cologne to Munich was an hour late. Then Munich-Karlsruhe arrived 15 or 20 minutes later than scheduled (it’s not such a big deal, but not for a supposedly punctual train service). Of course you have to keep in mind the weather has been terrible, but then again Germany always has snow and it’s not a tropical country, so I would suppose that snow is to be expected as well as railway icing.

But the weirdest experience was my recent City Night Line ride from Karlsruhe to Berlin. The train was about 10 minutes late, so that’s in the present situation quite okay.

So I was waiting at the train station and it was only the first time that I noticed that you can actually know where exactly your train car will stop. Each railway has letters assigned to it and there are boards that where you can see next to which letter your train car will stop, so that you won’t have to run 300m with your huge suitcase once the train arrives. Which is exactly what you do in Russia as you almost never can predict how far you’ll have to run. I was thinking how cool it is to be in a civilized place and then the train car arrived.

I had a Ruhesessel ticket with a seat reservation, which means it’s just a more or less comfortable armchair that leans back quite a lot. I entered my train car and there were just compartments. I was puzzled. I went back and forth at least 4 times, just trying to figure out if I had the number of the car right, if it was actually my train, if I was blind, etc.

No, it was all fine, except there was not a one Ruhesessel in sight and of course no Deutsche Bahn employee anywhere in the vicinity. [What's also odd, my seat number was 67 and there was no 67 at all there. There were places 60-66 and then I think 69-75, etc.] I sat down in the next car, there were plenty of Ruhesessels free there, but did I want to be worried at every stop that the train made that somebody would come up to me and tell me it’s their seat? Nope. Eventually, two stops later and an hour on the road, I went to check out if maybe a Ruhesessel miraculously appeared in my assigned train car… and stumbled upon a DB employee at last.

The guy had little interest in talking to me and for the most part was quite impatient and obviously had better things to do than explain the situation to me, so the best I got was this: yes, I had a Ruhesessel train car with seat reservation, yes, it was the correct car number, no, there are no Sessels here because it’s somehow a different train, so I should just take any place I want in this car. I was a bit flummoxed as again, there could’ve been a problem of somebody showing up and telling me where to go as it was their place, but it turned out that somehow there were no reservations for that car at all. Or something.

Anyhow, in the end I shared a compartment with another confused guy, so it was actually a better option than what I paid for, but that thought didn’t help me fall asleep and arrive all fresh and perky to Berlin. Oh well. I might still give DB another chance for long-distance travel at one point.

Local subsidiaries are not great either, though. The S-Bahn in Berlin goes absolutely not according to the schedule and with long delays, much to the discontent of people who are late to work every day because of this as you can’t foresee such things. But the weather is getting better (fingers crossed that it’s not just for two days) and so maybe Berliners will see the end of their commuting nightmare. At some point.


Jiri said...

S-Bahn in Berlin has some public schedule? I thought that there is only interval. You can't be never enough prepared for the snow. Unless you have huge spare times in schedule, as you have in Russia. Actually Japaneese trains are pretty-much punctual..:) At least that is my experience.

True story said...

I knew you'd reply to this one! :D

Yeah, somebody else told me trains in Japan are fantastic AND you get your money back if they're 5 minutes late (I have no prooflink, but I somehow tend to believe that). Also, apparently London/UK has good train service as well?

julochka said...

it sounds much like the trains here in Denmark - the DSB is consistently surprised by weather conditions as well. but i don't understand how the DB has the reputation it has...even 15 years ago trains were late all the time. i remember taking a train from Giessen to Frankfurt and that it rained rather heavily and my friend and i nearly missed our plane thanks to the train being delayed.

but the best train rides i've ever had were Moscow-Kazan - i LOVED that train - well, all but the toilets. i have a totally romantic notion of train travel from those trains.

thanks for stopping by my post on koldinghus. i'd also love to live there!

True story said...

Oh wow, that is surprising, Moscow-Kazan was a pleasant experience? Great to hear that! Was that like a VIP train or a normal one?

I don't really like Russian train service, but as of last night I decided I want to do a Transsiberian trip, so I better man up. ;)

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