“Germany’s delayed trains lead to cultural crisis” is the current headline of the “Wall Street Journal” (WSJ). The well-known business newspaper also scoffs on its front page: The chronically late one Deutsche Bahn even try to soothe angry passengers with scent therapies.
“The train fiasco is just the latest embarrassment for a country that for years has basked in its reputation as Europe’s most efficient powerhouse and was blessed with an unrivaled manufacturing base. Today, Germany’s economy is bogged down by its dependence on Russian gas and weak export demand.”
Ironically, in a country that stands for precise punctuality worldwide, one could no longer rely on the trains, says the editorial: A third of all long-distance trains were delayed here last year, the astonished American readers are told, and say: This is coming existential crisis.
“I’ll never travel with Deutsche Bahn again”
“I have to confirm that. My experience with Deutsche Bahn this July was horrible,” said American tourist Lanie Tighe in an interview with FOCUS online. “At the very last minute I found out at Munich Central Station that my ICE train to Zurich was cancelled. There was no explanation or announcement as to which train I should take instead.”
Well over 100 passengers were queuing at the service center, she says. “The employees at the counter were completely overwhelmed with such crowds. It took forever before I was able to rebook. All trains in southern Bavaria were either canceled or had extreme delays. I was advised to drive via Innsbruck”.
But then her next train stopped in Innsbruck. “Again there were no announcements, no help or advice on what to do”. After another rebooking via her DB app, she finally arrived in Zurich six hours late.
“I couldn’t make my return flight to Boston. I had to pay for the night at the airport hotel myself. That was a lesson for me: I’ll never travel with Deutsche Bahn again. I used to love taking the train when I was visiting Germany!”
A number of DB passengers with similar experiences have their say in the WSJ report. “I knew then that the vacation was over and that I was back in Germany,” said Vera Meinert, whose train suddenly stopped after a vacation in Switzerland due to track obstructions and did not continue. With hundreds of other passengers, she tried to get a seat on three replacement buses.
Many would not have made it and had to wait in the heat of 33 degrees for the buses to return. She finally arrived in Munich several hours late.
Bitching about Deutsche Bahn becomes a national sport
So it’s no wonder, according to the WSJ, that ranting about Deutsche Bahn has become a national sport: “Venting your anger at German public transport – that’s now part of the national zeitgeist”. The profile description of a user on a dating app is also given as an example: “My most typical German habit is to get upset about Deutsche Bahn”.
Nevertheless, Deutsche Bahn should be credited with a certain sense of comedy, the Wirtschaftsblatt finds – partly intentional, but possibly also involuntary.
For example, train announcements would occasionally amuse angry passengers: “The conductor has not yet arrived because of another delayed train. Unfortunately we are currently blocking the tracks for this train. We are excited about the solution ourselves,” a loudspeaker announcement is quoted as saying.
Another example of Deutsche Bahn’s sense of humor: When the American author TC .Boyle took aim at the company on Twitter last June because of its many late trains, Deutsche Bahn replied quickly and wittily: “We do what we can , to give you enough time to write”.
Old infrastructure, higher traffic, construction projects
The reasons for DB’s problems are explained to the Americans as follows: In the 1990s, the company invested more abroad and neglected the domestic German railway network.
The government has also failed here. Further challenges: Germany’s rails are already the densest in the world – there are also increasing numbers of passengers as well as strikes and staff shortages. A DB spokesman explains the delays in the article with aging infrastructure, higher traffic and construction projects.
The DB has even tried to soothe angry passengers with soothing scents in the compartments, reports the Wirtschaftsblatt. “Unfortunately, I didn’t notice anything about that,” said Lanie Tighe to FOCUS online.
“On the contrary: it stunk because the trash cans were all overflowing. The toilets were also dirty. Germany used to seem so clean to me. What happened there?