You have to hand it to the Germans they know there stuff when it comes to urban transport. They have London style integrated transport systems including use of buses, trams, underground and suburban trains with joint ticketing and a joined up approach across all transport modes in all of their sizeable cities from Koln to Munchen, Berlin to Hamburg. The systems are cheap to use, pretty reliable, there is lots of information available and the rolling stock is in decent shape. The only London style transport system in England is in London! It is also interesting to note that most underground stations in German cities are unstaffed, there is much more use of ticket machines rather then offices but no barriers yet the system feels safe and clean. I guess the likes of the RMT union in England overlook the German example when they claim reducing staffing levels on the London Underground would be the end of the world.
Equally my own experience of the long distance rail network across Germany on the ICE trains is positive with trains pulling in a few minutes before their scheduled departure time and leaving promptly. With a compulsory reservation system ( which I’m not entirely convinced about although unlike our advance tickets you can reserve on there trains a few minutes before departure leaving some flexibility) there is no overcrowding and they tend to be punctual ( and have announcements in English which is good for my very basic grasp of German).
Despite all this praise for German public transport however the city night line international sleeper services (which unfortunately seem to be withdrawn in the coming months – creating more short haul flights and removing the adventure of a sleeper train!) seem to buck the trend. After a hick up with flights from Stansted Airport a couple of weeks ago my trip to Copenhagen became a weekend in Southend-on-sea so I was excited to have a spare weekend to go to Denmark a few weeks later, this time by Eurostar to Brussels onto Koln (Cologne) then on the sleeper Friday night, Saturday in Copenhagen then back on the sleeper Saturday night. A flying visit. My past experience of European sleepers has been of delays. Usually around an hour delay that the railway operator doesn’t see as a big deal or see a need to inform or apologise to passengers about. I have generally come to assume that there will be an hour delay and factor it in to onward connections with no negative effect on my journey and an extra hour awkwardly trying to sleep in a small compartment with two students interailing, someone on their phone all night and a weirdo. There is always a weirdo on a sleeper. Sleepers seem to attract weirdos. Sleepers in the UK generally don’t have much miles to cover in a night. FGW’s London to Penzance sleeper takes double the time the conventional train takes so even if is two hours late leaving London it can still be right time by Exeter. The European sleepers in comparison have some miles to cover and coaches get shunted around as you go with portions for Prague, Warsaw and Copenhagen when the train leaves Amsterdam. At times in the night you feel yourself being shunted backwards and forwards, attaching and detaching. You can forgive them an hour delay then I suppose.
A five hour delay with no information, finally resulting in the train being terminated in Hannover at 7am which meant realistically I was going to arrive in Copenhagen until at the same time as I was due to depart to come home. I decided to cut my losses and have a day in Hamburg instead which is well worth a visit and was a good idea as the return sleeper on Saturday night was amended to start in Hamburg instead of Copenhagen to account for it not making it to Denmark on Friday night. It was good that DB announced this in the morning when they knew. This is a welcome relief from Northern Rail in England whose dumb Twitter team when asked if a train whose inward working has clearly been cancelled but the back working is still showing running tweet you back “as far as we know” until it gets to a minute before departure when they realise they have no train to work (like you told them they wouldn’t ) it so cancel it when everyone is at stations waiting for it!
I have a delay compensation form in German to complete for my curtailed trip. I must be the only person to have not gone to Copenhagen twice in the same month.