Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The ever reliable Deutsche Bahn

So many people think that the German railway is so efficient and much better priced than our English counterpart. However from my brief experience of it it does not seem to be that way.

To start with, there are always articles on the BBC website about how European railways are subsidised so much that it makes them a lot cheaper for the passengers to actually travel on them. However it seems here that a journey is about the same if not more expensive to a comparable one in the UK. Okay, so the Germans do have high-speed railway, but that is not on all routes, and especially not on the regional routes that I have been taking most recently. Yes our upcoming trip to Berlin on Thursday is on one of the high-speed trains. However our return is not and is just on a regular inter-city train. And to say that it was cheap would be far from the truth, it was the price we expected to pay, but it would be comparable to what we may have had to pay in the UK.

And then there was the service we have had over the last few days. On Monday we were meant to go from Plaue to Erfurt, change the train and then go to Jena West. The train journey from Plaue to Erfurt Hauptbahnhof went as it should have done and we changed platform to the one we now needed. However that is when things then started to go wrong. There was an announcement saying that the train had been cancelled and we needed to change platform to take a different train to Erfurt-Bischleben (which was in the direction we had just come from and further away from where we wanted to be) and that when we got there there would be a new train to take us to Jena West. So we got there and one platform was already full with other people trying to get to Weimar or Jena West. There were few announcements and on one announcement they said they had no idea when the train would be arriving or what platform it would be arriving on. Therefore we just decided to give up on trying to get to Jena and to just take the bus back to Erfurt.

We later found out on the radio that night that the problem was all down to a ferris wheel that was being transported and had falled off the wagon or something similar to that and had caused damage to a 200m stretch of the track.

We heard this at about 6pm that evening and so though that it would all be sorted by the time we then needed to take the train the next morning at 10:48. Luckily for us that train was actually running, albeit with a 10 minute delay. However we did pass the part of track that was being repaired and it seemed like they still had a lot of work to be doing. But we knew that we would be in Jena for a few hours and that surely again it would be fixed for our return.

On the way back we got on the train we were meant to, it left on time and all the announcements made seemed to suggest that we would be stopping at Hauptbahnhof. However when the train then left Weimar startion there was an announcement to say we would not be stopping at Hauptbahnhof, but would instead just be going straight through it and stopping at Bischleben, where we would have to take another train back.

To our annoyance there was nothing we could do but carry on, except we did have the idea to pull the emergency stop whilst the train was going through Hauptbahnhof as that would make the train stop there, but we did manage to refrain from doing this. At Bischleben there was much confusion as nobody knew what platform to go to and when the next train would be along. Especially as the train we had just been on, part of it had detached but we didn't know if it would be going to Hauptbahnhof or not as that it usually where it detaches.

Finally the one supervisor who was on the platform shouted over that this train was indeed going back to Hauptbahnhof and that we could all get on it. So we all rushed under the tracks to the platform we had just been on so we could board the train, luckily we were actually able to get a seat. We finally ended up back in Erfurt only about 30 minutes later than we should have been, but the point still stands.

So before fully criticising  the UK railway system next time it is always worth remember that train travel in other European countries is not always as great as the do like to make out.


  1. Good point, British trains aren't really that bad. Although Network rail do need to electrify the line between Ashford and Hastings, and need to invest in proper signalling in the south east. I'm fed up of waiting 15 minutes at Polegate due to the gates being down despite the train being in Berwick....

  2. And the above's more an issue with Network Rail, and not the TOCs. In general I've found Southern to not be too bad!