Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Merkel's Madness

The German government is preparing plans to sell up to 50% of the country's state owned railway Deutsche Bahn.

Why?

Any one who spends time travelling on Germany's state-run railway will know that it's a different class to Britain's privatised, fragmented network. Trains run to the second, are clean- and you always get a seat.
The way Deutsche Bahn responded to the extra challenge of last year's World Cup was exemplary: extra trains and carriages were laid on and supporters all praised the way that public transport was organised.

It beggars belief that a country with such an excellent, tried-and-tested system should want to copy a country -Britain- whose railway system is easily the worst in Europe.

1 comment:

Happy Commuter said...

It beggars belief that a country with such an excellent, tried-and-tested system should want to copy a country -Britain- whose railway system is easily the worst in Europe.

I'm instinctively suspicious of sweeping generalisations, and especially so in this instance - because you make the mistake of assuming that post-privatisation you can lump all the train companies together and treat them as a single monolithic entity like the old British Rail.

While there are doubtless some that are operating well below expectations, I have nothing but the highest praise for Southern, which I use daily. At least nine times out of ten it's bang on time, and when it is delayed it's never for more than a few minutes.

In something like three or four years of using them (or whenever they took over the old Connex franchise), I can recall only a handful of incidents where the delays were more serious. But in every single case - no exceptions - they were due to external factors (vehicle hitting a bridge, a suicide, a tree across the tracks) that they couldn't possibly be blamed for. And the experience overall is so much better than commuting via British Rail in the early 1990s that there's no comparison.

And my fellow regulars agree with me - in fact, we often ponder on why our experience is so much better than the clich├ęd "misery line" narrative, and wonder how many other British routes are equally well run. But of course that's far less of a good story, so they get much less coverage by definition.