Deutsche Bahn has recently reached a record number of passengers, despite defective reservation systems, chronic delays, poor maintenance and not enough staff. But German frustration with a service that is meant to be the pinnacle of reliability is on the up and was recently creatively expressed by one Munich commuter.
It was the same as it ever was. Rushing to Frankfurt central station to catch the train, you expect to be in Brussels in three hours time but instead, you find your train has been cancelled.
Punctuality and Deutsche Bahn has enjoyed regular coverage in the German media for years now. The discussion heated up once again earlier this month when the railway company released its newest punctuality figures that show a mere 75%, the lowest rate since 2015.
Germans are, of course, always on time, even to the point of painfulness for some.
Which makes it all the more surprising for EU residents outside Germany to learn what endeavour Deutsche Bahn users have to go through. It is best reflected by the ‘rail delay scarf’.
Journalist Sara Weber posted on Twitter a photo of the scarf her mother, a commuter in the Munich area, knitted out of frustration with frequent train delays.
She knitted two rows per day: grey for less than five minutes, pink for five to 30 minute delays, red for delay on both trips or once more than 30 minutes.
“Everything was ok during the spring. A lot of grey and pink. Then everything got red for a while: rail replacement services, the whole summer holidays long. It did not take 40 minutes per ride, but just under two hours. Every day,” Sara Weber wrote on her thread.
“She (her mother) hoped it would get better by the end of the year. But: Again a lot of red,” Sara Weber continued, citing problems with doors not closing or opening properly, delayed trains and other disturbances. She highlighted that her mother spends €175 a month for her ticket.
How does the story end? Following the buzz created by her thread, Weber and her mother decided to auction it off and give the proceeds to Bahnhofsmission, a charity that assists people in need at railway stations across Germany.
It sold for €7,550 on eBay on Monday. There were 134 bids from 45 bidders for the 1.5-metre scarf. A branch of Deutsche Bahn was the buyer…
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[Edited by Sam Morgan and Zoran Radosavljevic]