Monopolies are bad, m’kay

I know it’s not exactly a novel conclusion, I am just reaffirming what everybody, who doesn’t have the monopoly on something, thinks about them.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a trip on a train. It was a rather short trip, distance-wise, but it virtually took forever. That’s the privatized German Railway Company for you: overpriced, bad service, bad maintenance, bad attitude, and they get away with it because they are the only one offering rail services. Now, you might have heard legends about the punctuality and dependability of the German Railway System. That is pre-privatization talk. Like with the mail, which was also privatized in historically recent times, it is now worse than in Italy. Well, it’s not entirely privatized. The majority shareholder in both cases is still the German State, which is why the Federal Cartel Office isn’t smashing them to bits. Now, theoretically, the people should thereby be the majority shareholder of the German Railway Company, but that’s not how things work. I digress. I didn’t really want to rant about how the German Railway Company’s monopoly is protected, but about how much it stinks. And I mean literally stinks.
So, there I am, with a few hundred other people, waiting for the train. That wouldn’t really have been a problem, or something unusual, because I tend to be early, so I don’t have to worry about finding a ticket vending machine that works, and about working out how to operate it. They can be really tricky at times. Or malfunctioning, without anyone bothering to notify the public. And sometimes, you don’t find out that they are malfunctioning until you want to pay. On to the next vending machine then. Well, that wasn’t my problem yesterday. I found one that worked just fine. But waiting for the train became something very strenuous. First, the train was 10 minutes late. Yeah, nothing special. After 15 minutes, there was an announcement that it would be 20 minutes late. You get used to that, too, after a while. What you don’t get used to is that happening to you during a heat wave. How hot was it? Oh, like body temperature. 37 centigrade, or close to 100°F. No, we don’t usually get that in Germany, especially not in Frankonia. Here, 75 is like bathing weather. I mean like overfilled swimming pools. Most people I saw were about to get a heat stroke. So, with 25 minutes delay, steamy, sweaty masses of people squeezed into the train, and we all entered the second tier of Hell.

German trains used to have nice big windows, that you could open, instead of AC. Now, there are two small windows per wagon that can be opened, and allegedly, there is AC. No, I haven’t ever seen any proof of that AC. Well, maybe they have a working version in first class. I wouldn’t know that. I’ve survived worse than sitting in a train without AC at 100°F for an hour. You know, before things get better. Or, well, before they got worse, they got A LOT worse. So, we’re sitting in the train, and it has not left one of it’s scheduled stops – for which it was already 25 minutes late – in quite a while. No movement also means no draft from the two small windows. Whatever small comfort we hadn’t noticed from those two windows, we dearly missed it now. And we missed it for another 20 minutes, until the conductor informed us that the locomotive was broken. Our train wasn’t going anywhere. We did find out, however, that there was another train, which worked perfectly well, that was going to leave from another platform, but it was considerably smaller. Well, what the hell… I had to get to my destination, and another half hour wouldn’t kill me. Another half hour stuck in a train, stuffed with sweaty, angry, desperate people.

It didn’t kill me, but it was torture by the hands of the German Railway Company’s monopoly.

8 thoughts on “Monopolies are bad, m’kay

  1. I sympathize; just two days ago I was stuck for 1h40 about 40 km away from where I’m currently staying because “something” was wrong with the train that was supposed to take me most of the way home. In a similar turn of events, we were eventually told to get on a different train that would take the same route as the one that got stuck.
    Since the beginning of June I’ve been using (French, as you know) public transportation (train + subway) on a daily basis and I’ve lost track of how many times a train was late or a metro was stuck who-knows-where and who-knows-why.
    We commuters are slaves to public transportation; I always have been, every since I entered high school 13 km away from my hometown, some 11 years ago.
    You get used to it after a while. I don’t expect things to go smoothly anymore – but I’m always delighted when they do.
    Yet somehow, as I was stuck on a Sunday afternoon in scorching heat without any idea what was going on and how long it would last, and especially how long my 50 cL water bottle would last me, I didn’t feel like I was used to it. I mostly felt the heat.

    By the way… Hi 🙂 Nice to see that you’re still blogging, I’ll do my best to catch up on your posts.

      1. I’m sure you didn’t. Please don’t make me feel guilty for letting you down ! I’ve just had a busy… eight months. We should catch up.

  2. Isn’t it contradictory to say the DB was better before it was privatized? In those days it really was a monopoly. Now there are other companies on the rails – the ALEX from Hof to Munich has graet service – and it is the DB’s efforts to cut costs and be more competitive that have led to this deplorable situation.

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