Does the train always run on time?

It is sometimes said that in Germany, the trains always run on time. But when trains did not run on time in Germany last year, a local commuter spotted opportunities for stress management, creativity, and generosity.

Claudia Weber travels daily from her home in Moosburg to her job as a travel agency clerk in Munich via a regional Deutsche Bahn route. In recent years her commute has grown in popularity — which presents additional challenges to a mass transit infrastructure that already serves both regional and international travelers.

Last year, track repairs began to prolong the Moosburg-Munich commute from 40 minutes to sometimes more than two hours one way. Many commuters in situations like these write letters, take to social media, or complain among themselves.

Ms. Weber, an avid knitter, decided to begin a new scarf.

When she came home each evening in 2018, she added two rows to the scarf. Dark gray yarn signified there had been a delay under five minutes that day. She used pink yarn for delays of six to 30 minutes. Red yarn was for delays of more than 30 minutes, or when both of her trips had run late.

Melissa’s daughter, Sara, posted a photo of the resulting 4 ft / 1.2m Bahn-Verspätungsschal, or “train delay scarf” on Twitter.

The response, especially from other German commuters who regularly dealt with similar issues, was so overwhelming that the Webers decided only one thing could become of the Bahn-Verspätungsschal: It was put up for sale on eBay, with the proceeds going to Bahnhofsmission.

Founded in 1894, Bahnhofsmission is an organization that supports those who use the German railway system in a variety of ways. Their missions include providing areas for respite in over 100 train stations, communication and translation services, identifying local accommodations and support services for new arrivals, and Kids on Tour, a program in which children who might ordinarily have to travel on their own are accompanied by volunteer adults trained in child care.

The train delay scarf sold for €7550 / US$8650 to a buyer who was, initially, anonymous. Eventually, it was revealed that the buyer was Deutsch Bahn, the train company. In addition to the purchase, Deutsche Bahn some hiring increases, and a 2019 on-time goal of 80% of all trains.

Nevertheless, Sara Weber reports that her mother has begun a new scarf. Given how common scheduling delays are for commuters, it’s reasonably safe to assume that now, she may not be alone!

Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager