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.
Who says that flight attendant announcements need to be boring?
Tags: weather, winter
This fresh footage (via Barbara) is from Madrid a week ago. Unlike drivers in Seattle, drivers in Madrid seem to be reasonably well in control of the unusual road conditions. That said, several highways around Madrid were closed to cope with the snow, according to eSpanien.
Meanwhile here in Helsinki where that kind of weather would be normal this time of the year, we have just 2 degrees below freezing point and a very thin, almost non-existing snow layer on the ground. Looks like the weather map has been turned upside down.
This footage from Estonian channel 2 shows the effects of the Moscow-Tallinn train going just a bit too far due to a break failure. The engine driver and his number two are now being investigated (Estonian) as it turns out that they failed to make some of the mandatory break checks during the journey.
Tags: weather, winter
The summer is almost knocking on the door and this year we had a winter that never really took place but on the whole we usually have a real winter every year which also includes slippery road conditions. I do not know where this video clip has been shot but it must be somewhere where snow and icy roads are not a regular feature. Apparently these drivers have never heard of such a thing as winter tires.
Tags: air travel, security
According to Spiegel On Line International a German man was denied a one liter bottle of vodka on board a flight, in accordance with air travel security rules banning anything but small amounts of liquids. He was presented the options of dumping the bottle or paying for getting his luggage checked in. The man opted for neither but decided to drink the booze on the spot which caused him a nearly fatal alcohol poisoning.
Lessons to be learned? Sure! You can not beat stupid security rules by acting equally stupid yourself.
This footage shows trucks lined up near the town of Narva at the Estonian Russian border waiting to enter Russia. The situation is very similar at the Finnish border against Russia, has been for a long time. The line can be anything between 30 and 50 kilometers on any given day. Why? Because Russia gives a shit to conduct its border formalities in accordance with international treaties, let alone common sense.
Tags: new york, strike, taxi
The New York Yimes writes about a 24 hour cabbie strike scheduled to kick off in a few hours:
A group that says it represents about 10,000 cabdrivers is calling for a strike today, its second in less than two months, to protest a city plan requiring the more than 13,000 medallion taxicabs to install global positioning systems and credit card machines.
I am sursprised that those devices are not already installed in the cars and I am sad to learn that the cab drivers so rigorously oppose them. GPS would improve the cabbies’ own security and make it easier to allocate resources at peak traffic hours. The credit card machines would no doubt contribute to a better customer service.
The drivers are just flat wrong to take industrial action against elementary technology.
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 Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht, the police in Tartu on Sunday stopped a car driven by a 30 year old blind man who was drunk. He was assisted by another man sitting on the passenger seat reading driving instructions. Neither of the two have a driver’s license.
The drive took place very early on Sunday morning in a street in central Tartu which would have been quite busy during daylight hours.
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”.
A drunken driver named Dana Papst killed himself and five other persons on a road near Santa Fe. He had earlier taken a flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque and was reportedly drunken already as he boarded the flight. He continued to drink whiskey during the flight.
All of this is unfortunate, especially so regarding the innocent family who lost five of their loved ones. But having said that, I am not sure that I would agree with New Mexico’s government which is debating the airlines’ right to serve alcohol to passengers. In this part of the World, we are not in the habbit of allowing intoxicated persons on aircrafts.
If Dana Papst had been stopped in Phoenix instead of letting him board the plane, he and five other persons would probably still be alive. A drunken air passanger is almost as dangerous as a drunken driver. If drunken persons were not allowed on board, the question of allowing alcohol sales on board would not be crucial.
Tags: rostock, ships, travelling
As I wrote on Friday morning, I needed to travel to Tallinn over the day to renew my press credentials. There are some issues about that particular journey that I have written about in my other blogs but not as yet in English. It was a particulary exhausting journey so I needed a few days to recover.
Obtaining tickets was the first thing to do. I started to sort out the schedules the first thing last Wednesday as soon as I received a mail from the Estonian Journalist Union that the appointment needed to take place on Friday rather than this Monday or Tuesday. I concluded that Tallink’s Superfast with departure at 8.30 a.m. and arrival in Tallinn at 11 a.m. would allow me to take care of my banking, shopping and most importantly the press cards. I would have to be back in Tallinn harbor at 4 p.m. for a departure at 4.30.
Tallink’s web site offered a day cruise for 30 € which I regarded as acceptable. Much to my astonishment, though, that particular ticket was not purchaseable through the web. I could have been able to buy a regular return ticket for 53 €. I thought that was a bit too much even for a boat promising to cross the gulf in two hours and a half so I went to Tallink’s ticket office in central Helsinki on Thursday.
The sales lady explained to me that the day ticket can not be bought through the web because it is a campaign product. I did not care to ask back how come something could be a campaign product which is being sold on a regular basis. Instead, it crossed my mind to ask if Tallink had any sort of press discount.
As it turned out, holders of a valid press card were allowed 50 % of a regular ticket which sounded fine for me. My press cards were still valid for a few days, so I did not have to pay 53 € nor even 30 € but 26,50 €. At that point I was pretty happy.
The journey itself proofed out to be less than satisfactory although Tallink personnel on board and on both shores of the gulf were no doubt doing the best they could under the circumstances. Superfast is basically a car ferry and its basic purpose is to serve travellers with cars between Helsinki and Rostock. The departure to Tallinn has been added for cost reasons: it is better that the ferry brings in some revenue to the owner instead of just lying in the harbor of Helsinki.
The journey between Finland and Germany takes 25 hours which is why practically all the passengers have a cabin or at least a chair on the sleeping deck. In such case it is not very important to have room on board just for hanging around and spending time. The situation is of course the reverse between Helsinki and Tallinn.
On the morning departure I had some trouble finding a place just to sit down for a while. Many passengers are in the bad habbit of occupying seats in bars and cafeterias from harbor to harbor although the usage of common room is obviously designed upon rotation of seats between passengers. The return departure was less crowded so at least I was able to sit most of the time.
The prospect of a cross over in two hours and a half during the winter period sounds very tempting. Unfortunately, though, this does not apply for passengers without cars. There is no landing ramp for foot passengers in neither Tallinn nor Helsinki. Those are expected to be ready by end of March but as long as they are still being built, the foot passengers enter and depart the ferry through the car deck and are transported to the harbor terminal on a bus.
For safety reasons, the cars must be let out before the foot passengers can be allowed on the car deck. There is just one bus in each end serving the foot passengers so the bus has to take several turns to transport the passengers. As a result, you can not really plan the actual time you arrive at either end of the journey. Even those with the sharpest elbows have to count on at least half an hour at each end.
As I returned to Tallinn harbor in the afternoon I had just ten minutes left before the passport control. I would not have made it, had not the General Secretary of the Estonian Journalist Union, Mrs. Ebba Rääts, been kind enough to process my press cards while I was doing my shopping in town. There is a World of difference being left with three hours to do one’s business in town as opposed to five hours as planned.
The whole concept of having a Tallinn extension to this ship which may or may not be a good choice between Helsinki and Rostock looks quite a lot like cashing in. I do know a number of pubs and bars in Helsinki that serve 0,5 litres of beer for a lesser price than 4,20 € although quite many also ask more than that. Judging from the selection of beer in the Superfast bars, the expensive stuff is bought from either Germany or Estonia, both of which are cheaper countries than Finland.
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.