When changing trains in Hannover yesterday, I saw the night train to Paris on the other side of the platform. That seems like a cool train to take. The way night trains work seems rather cool as well, with all the different coaches being joined up during the journey and taking people to their destination without further effort.
One of the coaches in that train came from Russia and was going all the way from Moscow to Paris, МОСКВА – ПАРИЖ, as they say. It looked like they even brought their own conductor with them. Sweet. [I am wondering a bit how this works, the railway site only gave me journeys Moscow – Paris with two or three train changes taking 36 hours and a bit now.]
Despite the coaches of that night train stating they’ll go to Paris, the sign at the platform said something about going to Zürich. Which seemed weird but irrelevant to me. – Until five minutes later when a woman who seemed a bit drunk, or not 100% smart, or a bit of both who went on and on about this being the weirdest day where her train to Göttingen was supposed to go from platform 4 but actually happened to be on platform 3. “Big Deal”, I thought, not seeing the problem there.
Said problem became apparent after our train started going and the conductor came to check her ticket. Apparent she had a pre-booked ticket which required her to go on that night train. And her ticket was invalid on our train, so she had to buy a new ticket or pay a fine or both. Which led to her lamenting loudly all the way throughout the journey.
Granted, she may have been drunk or stupid. But still I thought this was just silly: The train she was supposed to take gave no clue that it was going to Göttingen – none of the signs stated that – and as a night train it didn’t even look like it’s supposed to take people along for one stop only. Hence she decided there must have been the wrong track number listed on her ticket as a train clearly labelled with Göttingen as its destination was waiting at the other track of the same platform. I’m tempted to say that poor design played into her getting this wrong as well.
I am also tempted to say that it doesn’t friggin matter which train she goes on. Surely the night train would have been more comfortable and faster than the local train she eventually took. And she had booked a ticket in advance, showing she was totally prepared to pay for the journey. Yet, she had to pay for a completely new ticket and possibly some kind of fine. Even though it was her fault, formally, I kept thinking they should just give people a break. Making people pay twice for a worse service – apparently our slower train even made her miss the last bus home – won’t create any new railway fans.
Of course one can start a somewhat bigger argument here how all the formalities of ‘modern’ railway pricing just spoil the joy of going by train. Ultimately those, with tickets valid on a specific train only, were the cause of the problem we had the ‘chance’ to witness there.
To my knowledge if you have a ticket for a train which is of a higher standar (ICE, IC) they won’t charge you if you use a local train, but I guess in this case the night train belonged to some private company. Still the conducter should have been fair and not charged her extra money.
It sounded like her ticket was booked for the specific train only. So, formally, the conductor was probably right.
I generally dislike longtime bookings for specific trains. I like things to be flexible, so I have a Bahncard.
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