3 January 2011

Snail trains

Slower, shorter, colder, less frequent, more expensive.

Such are the S-Bahns these days in the New Year in the capital. I had the misfortune to travel on one such train today.  If you miss one, you have to wait twenty minutes on a freezing platform for the next one.  The rubbish bins were overflowing with empty coffee cups: commuters guzzled down hot coffee in an attempt to stave off hypothermia.  The only individual rubbing his hands was the canteen owner - and it wasn't because he was cold.

The price of a single ticket has increased 10%.  I wish I could say the same for the heating thermostat in the train.  Outside temperature was 0 Celsius, about the same as inside.

Technicians are trying to catch up with essential maintenance work.  Half the trains are iced up in the sheds instead of trundling up and down the lines, full of happy (warm) commuters and tourists.  This means that when a train eventually does arrive, it's missing a few extra wagons and a little bit overflowing with people.  On second thoughts, this is good because when you're squeezed in like sardines it helps keep everybody nice and warm!

A word of warning!  Make sure you have a validated ticket.  Surprise inspections are common.  Inspectors go around wearing civvies and strike by way of pincer attack (one at either end of a wagon).  Their favourite tactic is to enter the train at the penultimate stop on the line, where travellers think they'll never be caught out.  I've seen many an unsuspecting tourist have to cough up a 40 Euro fine on the spot.  Ouch.

p.s. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can always see alternative forms of transport on my Flickr stream below.

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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.