The Tallinn commuter train service is just great. I live well outside the capital and do not visit it too often. It makes sense to buy a single ticket rather than having a monthly card.
I do not need to have cash with me on board. There is a card I can upload either money or travel time to. Debet card payments are not accepted on board but other than that, I am happy.
Last time I uploaded balance to my rail card, it did not work with Firefox. Chrome was the only of my options to work. Of course I complained in Twitter.
Uploading yesterday, I detected suddenly that there was no problem with Firefox. The Elektriraudtee have a Twitter account of their own and it seems they follow feedback as well. Not to mention their real time updates whenever something extraordinary happens.
There is also a wifi network on trains, allowing me to spend the 70-75 minute journey doing something useful on line. When the rails and trains get modernised there will not be very much to hope for.
I am a happy commuter.
I wrote last month about chaos in German railways caused by industrial action. The trains were stopped in early July by two trade unions, Transnet and GDBA, demanding pay rises of seven percent for their members. As I noted back then, engine drivers represented by GDL were not participating in the bargaining because they wanted a separate wage agreement with a pay hike of up to 31 percent.
Today, a good month later, that conflict is exactly at the same point. A strike is very likely to kick off tomorrow. Oddly enough, Spiegel Online International suggests that the parties have made no progress in their negotiations to a large part because of a personal grudge between the two main actors, Deutsche Bahn chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn and GDL chairman Manfred Schell. Spiegel reports about exhange of less than polite statements between the gentlemen.
German engine drivers are worse paid than their colleagues elsewhere in Europe. According to Spiegel, there is public sympathy to the drivers in spite of the expected chaos right in the middle of the vacation season. As Mein Parteibuch puts it, it is bad for Germany’s reputation that the pay for a full time job is insufficient for providing a decent existence.
According to AFP, delays due to industrial action on German rails are expected to continue tomorrow. This morning could be as best described as a chaos on rails:
Commuters in cities and towns throughout the country faced delays during the morning rush hour, one day after warning strikes wrought havoc on regional and local rail lines.
Trade union GDL, representing train drivers, said Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt were hardest hit by the work stoppages, which ran from 5:00 to 9:00 am (0300 to 0700 GMT), although delays continued well into the day.
Peter writes that he was driving his son to school this morning. As they approached the school yard, it was announced that the first lesson of the morning was canceled due to the strike. Apparently, teachers in Heidelberg region heavily depend on trains.
Meanwhile in Hamburg, Andre had another sort of trouble. A lot of commuters seem to have driven to work in absence of the local S trains. Alas, Andre was unable to find a legal parking space for his car.
The rail workers are seeking to get their share of the generous profits of the rail service. Deutsche Bahn filed a profit of 1,7 billion euros last year, three times as much as the year before.
AFP accounts for what the unions are actually seeking:
The Transnet and GDBA unions are calling for wage increases of seven percent over a period of 12 months for 134,000 employees, while management has proposed a one-off payment of 300 euros and two-percent pay rises in 2008 and 2009.
Train drivers, however, did not participate in the talks and were seeking a separate wage agreement with a pay hike of up to 31 percent.
The latter demand has also been rejected by the management, describing it as “absurd”.
I have not traveled on rail in Finland for several years. In fact, I have not traveled within Finland at all because there would have to be a very good reason to visit any place in Finland other than Helsinki. On Saturday I have a reason to take a train to Turku: the annual congress of the Association of Estonians in Finland.
So I am going to take a train to Turku on Saturday morning. I had a look at the web site of Finnish Railways. I discovered that all morning trains to Turku are Inter City 2 trains. Inter City 2 trains are the only ones without a smoking cabin. Smoking is totally prohibited on board those trains.
In the FAQs there is a question about the missing smoking cabins. The answer goes in the lines of environmental concerns, a general tendency to non smoking and smokers being a minority of rail travelers. There is also a statement that the traveling times are allegedly not too long for anybody to refrain from smoking. The tone of the answer is utterly patronizing.
Excuse me, dear Railways, but I think I know better than you do, how often I have a physical need to smoke. Having smoked for 38 years and having suffered the pain when trying to quit, I would say that 1 hour and 45 minutes is a long time. Long enough to cause me physical symptoms.
Excuse me, dear Railways, since when is your business strategy based on health and environmental propaganda? I was stupid enough to think that your business was transporting passengers and serving all of them on equal terms. I was also stupid enough to think that even a minority of your travelers are paying customers who have the right to expect being served on your trains.
Your decision to have smoking cabins on all other train categories except Inter City 2 would require that a client had something of a choice between categories. I would be happy to travel an hour earlier if I could avoid an Inter City 2 train although I really do not accept that those particular trains are an exception to your policy of having smoking cabins on board. The decision must have been made by a health fascist who never smoked in their life.
Luckily, the return trains to Helsinki in the afternoon and early evening are other than Inter City 2. I do not mind that the journey takes 15 minutes longer as long as I have access to a smoking cabin.
Tags: accident, france, luxembourg
The BBC reports that Luxembourg takes blame on the tragical railway accident in northeastern France last week. Transport Minister Lucien Lux:
“We have to admit that the main responsibility probably lies with Luxembourg,” he told a news conference.
“It’s tough to say, but it’s the fault of the CFL (state rail company Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois).”
While this may answer the question of who is to be blamed, it does not answer the most important question: how could it happen?
Tags: accident, france
At least 10 dead after two trains collide in northeast France. I was under the impression that European railways were covered with automized security systems that are supposed to prevent this sort of accidents. Apparently not all railways in Europe are.
How could this happen? What is being done that it will never happen again? As a railway enthusiast with thousands of kilometers on rail tracks allover Europe, I would really want to know.