According to government propaganda in fascist Italy of the 1920s and 1930s, the unstated message was that, while you might not care for the man, at least under Mussolini the trains ran on time. They didn’t of course, and still don’t. Given the propensity for dictators to kill their critics, it probably wasn’t healthy to draw attention to Italian trains’ lack of adherence to the schedule.
German trains have always had the reputation of running on time; when I vacationed in Germany it was one of the things I could count on. My wife, who is a train wizard, seemed to know all the routes and the best deals. She thought nothing of scheduling our trips with only two or three minutes between trains. She knew we could make the connection, and we always did.
This month though my faith in Deutsche Bahn, the German railway, has been a little shaken. Trains have been late. Connections have been missed. Some trains didn’t show up at all. The system apparently isn’t what it used to be.
Yesterday for example my train was five minutes late. Not a problem given that I was taking one train and going in a straight line. But that wasn’t the case the previous week.
Then, when we reached our second connection (of seven!) on our trip to Lippstadt, we had half an hour between trains. Plenty of time in other words. Except it turned out to be too much time. While we watched, the display board changed the train time to “canceled.” What were we to do?
My wife got us underway with a minimum of delay, getting us to Lippstadt only half an hour later then we had planned.
I thought it strange though that there was no-one from Deutsche Bahn on the platform to assist travelers in rescheduling. Not everyone has a train wizard with them when they travel. I understand trains can sometimes be delayed and that there may be the necessity at times to cancel, but good customer service would dictate that you offer assistance to your customers when such delays occur.
It isn’t like we were the only ones inconvenienced that weekend. With two days of train travel and lots of changes, I heard quite a few announcements relating to delayed and canceled trains. I guess the German rail system isn’t what it once was.
The trip home was similar, though more inconvenient. It’s a ten-hour trip, though you can shave a couple of hours off the voyage if you are willing to pay a premium for fast trains. Those would triple the cost; I’m not willing to pay that price. Must be my Scottish ancestry.
Our first train of the return trip was late, which meant that once again we missed our connection. Not a tight one either, I think we had 20 minutes between trains. We never could make up the time, and as a result we missed the last bus home. Fortunately, we were able to get a lift from a friend.
I could talk about our return trip yesterday, but that was a case of the train being late too, and other bus connection missed. It was early enough in the day that we were able to take another bus 45 minutes later. Not a big deal, but a sign of the times I guess.
I enjoy train travel. I don’t mind if sometimes there are frequent changes necessary to get to my destination – it is still less stressful than driving. But I will no longer expect the trains to be on time. It feels like the end of an era.