Thursday, 15 January 2009

With or Without You...Deutsche Bahn Revisited

Most of you will have read my first entry about German trains and the Deutsche Bahn (A New Order: Sign(s) of the Times. If you haven't read it now before you read this entry...
This week has not given me the best impressions of the Deutsche Bahn. Last Saturday when I had tickets to see Swan Lake, I knew somehow, that the one time I actually needed to be back punctually, that something would go wrong. It all started when the SNCF online site wouldn't let me book my ticket online. This required me to go to an agent at the boutique to buy it. This in itself would not have been a problem, considering the SNCF Boutique is less than a minute from where we live. Little did I know that this would be the least of my problems this week.
My train (TGV) left Paris ten minutes late. Knowing I had only seven minutes to make my connection in Stuttgart, I asked the conductor what I was meant to do if I missed my connection. His snotty answer was that we would make up the time, and that I should not even consider asking what to do until we were half an hour from Stuttgart. I knew better. I fell asleep only to wake up two separate occasions to find the train stalled on the tracks, without explanation, in the middle of nowhere. We arrived in Strasbourg with approximately half an hour to make my connection in Stuttgart (It takes at least an hour). I knew I would not make it at that point. At this point a new conductor (this one German since they switch over to DB staff once at the border between France and Germany) assured me that the ICE would wait, because as he said, a lot of people make the connection to Munich via Stuttgart. I knew that his promise was empty. Since when do train companies care about how many people they strand? As long as it does not happen often and the delay is less than an hour, the Deutsche Bahn does not have to provide any sort of compensation.
Five minutes from Stuttgart, the snotty conductor came on the loudspeaker and announced that the ICE could not wait any longer (we were twenty minutes late at this point) and that the next connection to Munich would be at 16:12. This was going to make getting to the ballet tricky, but not impossible. Five minutes later, once in the station, I looked up at the board and saw that the ICE at 16:12 was going to be delayed 65 minutes. I was going to miss the ballet. I was really angry, why after all the crap that has happened over the last week did this have to happen now? Things in Munich were really tense enough with my already delayed arrival.
In an effort to appease the masses of people (from my train and the ones who were coming from other trains) and to ease traffic they found a replacement train.
You know those trains you often see around train stations that are on the side of the tracks with the doors open? I think we must have gotten one of those. It was a crappy, old, freezing train. I had a whole freezing compartment to myself. Woohoo! In an effort to make the ballet (despite again being delayed twenty minutes) I stripped in the train and changed into my clothes for the ballet. I really did not care about what happened if I got caught (there were curtains in the compartment anyway). I had suffered enough (and some more, any idea what it is like to be almost naked and trying to put on pantyhose in such a freezing train? Here's a hint, not fun!)
We made up the difference and I arrived in Munich five minutes late. I vowed to never make a trip like that again, and made it to the ballet thinking that my troubles with trains were over. I was wrong.

Yesterday I tried to purchase a ticket back to Paris for today. The Deutsche Bahn site would not work. I thought my computer must be to blame, so I spoke to my mom, got ready for my dance course, and headed to the train station. Once there I found every ticket counter closed. The problem? The entire Deutsche Bahn computer system had crashed not only in Munich, but all over Germany. As a result, the trains were running on a delayed schedule and only tickets within Germany could be purchased (for that day only) as long as they were paid for in cash. No reductions (Bahncards) could be provided. I was upset. Another occasion where I have to be somewhere and it was all beginning to look more and more unlikely. They said the systems would be up in twenty minutes. They booted everything up at 19:00 and the whole thing crashed again. They advised me to purchase my ticket in the morning. At this point, I had missed my dance class and was not happy about it. I was also midly anxious about getting home. I realised that there was now no chance of me taking the 6:24 AM direct train to Paris (only one of these a day) since the counters do not open until 7 AM.
I stayed up and kept trying to book. At 1:30, the systems were up and running again (at least temporarily they said). I went to bed and felt more relaxed, after all, I had a ticket...what could possibly go wrong now?
I woke up on time, got ready and left a little bit later than anticipated (giving me twenty rather than thirty minutes to make a ten minute journey). I had just missed the tram, but decided to wait the four minutes for the next one (it takes nine to walk to the U-Bahn). I arrived at the U-Bahn to find the train just departed, the next one at 10:15. My train was at 10:23. I could maybe just make it. Rather, I could maybe have made it if the U-Bahn wasn't running five minutes later. I arrived at the train station just in time to miss my train. I was hyperventillating (leading me to believe my asthma is returning, since I was getting so little air that I nearly passed out, and now have quite a sore throat). Still upset, I went to the counter, expecting to have to pay another 170 euros and be told that I could not get home tonight. I think the lady must have noticed that I was two seconds from crying, because she managed to find a way for me not to have to buy a new ticket (or maybe this is the bonus of paying so much for the train and having a bahn card?). Consequently I paid three euros and am now sitting on a train to Karlsruhe in an unreserved window seat with a table and electrical outlet (I guess you can sometimes get lucky). I will change in Karlsruhe, Offenburg, and Strasbourg and will arrive in Paris at 19:34 (three hours later than I had planned, with three changes instead of one). My delay does not complicate things, but my nerves are still shot. On the bright side, it only cost three euros. Perhaps this would all be funnier if I was going to Paris for fun. The fact that I had to get there tonight for the funeral tomorrow only made me panic all the more. Let's just hope that the rest of the trip goes smoothly (I'm seeing a lot of snow outside, which usually creates problems with the tracks freezing. I hope I am wrong). I could use some reliability right now, but unfortunately I'm headed to the country that has a reputation for the opposite...

1 comment:

Russell said...

Bizarre.. That being said, I have never particularly trusted trains, even when I was forced to commute on one.