"Pünktlichkeit" or on time performance is not Deutsche Bahn's strong suit.

As you all know I am in Berlin, Germany at the moment. I grew up here in Germany before immigrating to the US. Perhaps that would explain why I always have been a fan of the German rail system. It started out as Deutsche Bundesbahn, then the whole system went with the name Deutsche Bahn, to end up with the rather mondane DB AG at the present.

"Die Bahn" (the railroad), as we called it was always on time. One could depend on it and, more importantly, one could depend on making connections to other trains. Sadly this seems to be a thing of the past. A friend of mine and myself travelled from Berlin to Hamburg and back yesterday. This is a roughly two hour trip with no intermediary stops. We were over thirty minutes late getting into Hamburg and the return trip was a bit over 20 minutes late getting back into Berlin. Quite a few folks missed their respective connections in Berlin. Some of the really long distance trains were held, the night train to Budapest for example, but the more regional services were not. The frustrating part was that their appeared to be no reason for these delays.

The German press has been grumbling about the punctuality of the rail system for some time. However I have always just dismissed it as the typical German penchant for being unhappy about things. It appears that I might have been wrong. Looking at the departure and arrival board at Berlin Hbf one could see that over half of the trains were late by a considerable amount of time. What I can not understand is the fact that a majority of the trains begin their route here in Berlin, so how can they be late? Of course I am not a railroader, so...


Another thing I noticed on this trip to Germany is the fact that DB AG seems to be skimping on train maintenance. Perhaps these are little things and I believe that they are not safety related, nevertheless they are extremely annoying to passsengers. For example the automatic door close to my seat which opened and closed continously all the way to Hamburg, most likely because of a faulty sensor. Or the door that did not work at all and was stuck half way shut. It could only be opened with some effort. In the picture the vertical bar in the middle is the right edge of the door, basically stuck.

One of the broken doors on the train to Hamburg (Photo by Ralf Meier)Each coach has an information display. Unfortunately the one in our coach was so dim that it was fairly unreadable. A pity really, because it also indicates the current train speed.

Unreadable information display on a German ICE train. (Photo by Ralf Meier)

However nothing drives me more nuts then this: locomotives with their livery/paint jobs in a really bad state of repair. I believe it reflects very badly on the railroad and it just looks plain awful. There were dozens of these locomotives running about.

I wonder if it's another one of those cases were accountants run the railroad and not the railroaders. It is not the Deutsche Bahn I so fondly remember.

Rather sorry paint job on a DB AG Class 101 electric (Photo by Ralf Meier)Another DB electric locomotive with a lousy paint job (Photo by Ralf Meier)