10 December 2016

The Train Ride from Hell (or when German Trains Don't Work)

It's interesting to realize that sometimes, you hold some countries to a higher standard, because you expect something high from them, and when they don't deliver, then you get mad. Yet, when you have no high standard, and they don't deliver, you just shrug it off. I realized this when we were taking a train ride from Poland, traveling from Poznan to Berlin, one weekend.

See, we did a short weekend trip recently. When we went to Poznan, we simply took a direct train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and 2 hours and 45 minutes later, we were in Poznan. It was very simply. Yet the return trip wasn't that simple.

First of all, our EuroCity train didn't go all the way to Berlin. It terminated at Frankfurt an der Oder because of repair works being done on the tracks. There was either a replacement bus, or a transfer to another train from Frankfurt an der Oder. We took the train, since according to the schedule, even though that would mean more changes, we would still arrive faster than if we were to take the bus.

The train was a Regional Express, which was supposed to run from Frankfurt an der Oder to Erkner. Again, because of the repair works being done on the rail tracks, it should have gone all the way to Berlin, but instead was just going to Erkner, and from there, we should have taken the S-Bahn. So the Regional Express went, stopped in a couple of stations, and then something happened.

One station before Erkner, we were told that due to an incident, the train was not going to go to Erkner, but was stopping at the station before, at Fangschleuse. We were told that there would be a replacement bus. We waited, but half an hour later, there was no bus still. Later on, we were told that we had to take the train (another came in the meantime) and go to the other direction, until F├╝rstenwalde. From there we were told that a replacement bus would take us to Erkner.

So we went. And when we arrived in F├╝rstenwalde, we waited there for about half an hour again, before the cramped bus showed up. We fortunately got two seats, and then we went to Erkner. From there, we caught the S-Bahn, which was only running every 20 minutes due to track repairs (yet again!), but after sitting in the S-Bahn for an hour (and with one change in Ostkreuz), we reached home.

This reminded me of my bad experience with Belgian Railways back in 2013, when our trip from Luxembourg to Ghent turned from a scheduled 3.5 hour trip to the whole day.

The thing to note, however, is that while these things frustrate people, including me, it is mostly because we have an expectation that modern first-world country infrastructure would work. When I was riding a train operated by Myanmar Railways back in 2014 from Yangon to Mawlamyine, it was 9 hours of torture, but truth be told, I wasn't expecting much, so I didn't mind it.

Anyway, we found ourselves a little quick to note that next time we go to Poland we should rent a car. But later, we realized that statistically that doesn't make sense. After all, we had plenty of other train trips that went well, and it is also important to note that when we had a satisfactory experience, we typically don't note it, but when we have a negative experience, we find that more remarkable.

Oh well, we probably just were in the wrong train in the wrong time. Hopefully the next time we go to Poland it would be better than this.


  1. This is so common in France... TGV are often late and local trains are often cancelled. Infuriating when it happens, but when I see the bus system in Ottawa, I think French have it easy!

    1. Zhu,

      I know what you mean. As much as it is irritating when this happens here in Europe, when I think of how Amtrak is in the USA, then I still think we have better trains here!