Love-hate relationships

Today: Trains – with a particular reference to the Deutsche Bahn

The German railway services are ridiculously expensive, often unreliable (according to public impression: always) and altogether a company that still needs to learn more about its responsibility towards customers, employees and stakeholders.

171 Euro for a Stuttgart-Cologne round trip are excessive (by comparison Paris-Brussels: 134 euro; 24h advance booking). I’ve never seen the ’29 euro on any distance ticket’ available online no matter how much time I booked in advance and I really would be looking forward to some more competition by the SNCF (though certainly not a role model on open and fair competition policies itself) on the German rails like recently announced.

That was the kind of thought running through my mind while sitting comfortably first on a Thalys and then on a ICE; 2nd lass equipped with plugs (in both trains), heating and coffee service. I admire modern technology – the shape, the style, the systems. We so easily rely and depend on them and even easier ‘bitch’ about them if they fail – and might it be only a 5 minutes delay. We are taking it for granted without acknowledging the skills and complexity behind. Sitting on the platform and watching the trains coming in and going out with an almost meticulous precision is witnessing a masterpiece of engineering and beauty – in Germany as well as in France.

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7 responses to “Love-hate relationships

  1. In February I got return tickets from Brussels to Cologne in May for 30 euros, but I haven’t been so lucky later on this year. It is frustrating that bahn.de pretends to sell the Thalys tickets at a cheaper price, then tells you after you have entered your credit card details that all the seats are booked.

    One of my favourite things about this region is all the trains. You are correct, they are a marvel. It is delightful that they are making a resurgence against the horrors of plane travel.

  2. Brussels-Cologne is cheap. It’s from Cologne onwards that the galère starts.

    But I agree with you: Trains are better than planes. It’s a more relaxed, almost old fashioned way of travelling if the TGV wasn’t going at 350km/h 🙂

  3. if u think thats bad it costs us around 40 euros a week to travel on the undeground in london, or as you would call it the metro, please consider ur prices lucky comapred to us, please help our trains and their prices.

  4. My dear English friend: You are obviously right to complain about the prices for tickets in the UK that are even more outrageous than the standard continental ones. However, maybe you want to consider them being nothing but a fair recognition of the extraordinary engineering skills of your fellow-man?

  5. “English friend” has already made the point about prices. I could have flown for free this December from London to Vienna. But I could not afford the train ticket to the airport.

    Leaving prices aside, what counts as an “IC” in this country is a diesel engine that hardly manages 100 km/h. And that is as good as it gets. No high speed trains. None. At all. Anywhere in the country. Bar one – the one out of the country, i.e. going to the Euro-Tunnel. That must tell you something.

  6. PS: Not a bad word against the DB! They are fantastic. Schipohl to my home town – 14.00 Euro. From my home town back to Schipohl – 14.00 Euro. Beat that!

  7. @ Maik: The UK is indeed famous for its (old but expensive) train system; only topped by the national healthcare…
    But that is not the mistake of the engineers or the people working for the railway. Railway systems and the investments in it, are as much health and hospitals, a play-ball of political parties, market believes and opinion making.

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