31.1.07

MORE POWERFUL THAN THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE. "Kyrill" sounds vaguely Russian, but he's neither Koniev nor Zhukov.

The decision to suspend all train movements nationwide was made in Deutsche Bahn's (DB) operations center in response to the massive winter storm called “Kyrill” which lashed Germany, Holland, Belgium, England and Poland with hurricane force winds for two days last week. DB management took the action to avoid stranding numerous passenger trains in between stations in case of loss of electrical power, signals, or obstructions in the right of way. The shut-down decision left many thousands of travelers stranded overnight in dozens of different train stations across Germany. The lucky ones were able to sleep in trains parked in numerous stations during the nationwide shut down.

Although the action itself brought praise from various consumer advocacy groups, passenger rail supporters and government officials, they were at the same time highly critical of the lack of communication and information provided by DB to the travelers during the period. A spokesman from “Pro Bahn” a Germany based rail transit advocacy group similar to NARP in the USA stated: “We are totally dismayed with the lack of news and information Deutsche Bahn provided to train travelers during the storm. There is no excuse for the lack of information about the planned shut down of the nation's rail system on the day of the storm. Thousands of travelers were not allowed to know what was happening or when it was planned to begin to move trains again.” There were also numerous reports that a hotline which was set up by DB to provide information to rail travelers during the crisis was mostly unavailable or busy during the storm.

Amtrak recently fired several senior managers for reasons that the latest print edition of Trains gives as related to the carrier's poor performance during the December snowstorm in the Midwest. Whether that will encourage the others remains to be seen. Details from Germany will be provided when I find them.

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