I knew my Brussels-Billund train journey would be an interesting story (it’s prompted a previous blog entry already), but yesterday I actually was on the rails of Europe, at a time of some of the heaviest snowfall in early December for many years. There was snow on the ground the whole way, and it was snowing for the majority of the journey as well.
So what happened on the trip?
My DB ICE3 left 2 minutes late from Brussels, running more or less to time as far as Liège. Then after having left Liège we were diverted onto the old line via Verviers, rather than HSL3. The reason cited was electric problems – but how does that explain the diversion? And why tell is when we’re already diverted, rather than before?
At Aachen we waited too long in the station, then slowly headed eastwards, and were the told we had to get off in Düren and board another ICE3 there – but this whole thing was clearly planned, as the ICE3 we had disembarked was headed back to Belgium, and the one we were on was a single voltage unit, heading back towards Frankfurt. But why the drip, drip, drip of partial information? Tell us what’s really happening, DB! Plus once the problems started the DB staff were conspicuous by their absence – I had to rely on my iPhone to work out connections from Köln rather than be advised by the DB staff.
In Köln I was lucky – the IC train to Hamburg was still in the station as it was 20 minutes delay, my ICE having arrived 70 minutes late – I had 55 mins planned for the connection. The heating was broken in the carriage where I had reserved, but there were seats elsewhere, so I sat by the window and watched the white landscape, eventually arriving in Hamburg 30 minutes late. I had planned 35 mins for the connection here, and the RE train to Padborg was 5 minutes late, so I managed it easily enough.
Yet by this point I was starting to worry a bit – the heaviest snow of the journey was in northern Germany, with high winds too, and the RE train was covered in snow when it arrived. Here too the heating in one carriage didn’t work, but we headed northwards across the fields of Schleswig-Holstein with it still snowing heavily. All fine as far as Neumünster but then shortly afterwards the brakes were swiftly applied and we were told the points were stuck with snow. The driver tried to dig the snow out, failed, and a rescue crew was called. At least we were warm in the train. We arrived at Flensburg, the last station in Germany, with more than an hour of delay.
Then luck and geographic knowledge combined. A DSB ICE TD pulled into Flensburg moments after my RE train, bound for Århus. That will pass Vejle I thought, digging into my vague knowledge of Danish geography. So I hopped off the RE and into the ICE. The guard in the RE train had actually advised me against this! Turned out this ICE was running more than 2 hours late (it should have departed much earlier!) and all the passengers were understandably furious. I thought it was my lucky day, as the ICE powered it through Jutland, snow and all, getting me to Vejle just 15 minutes later than I was due there, and 5 minutes later than the Billund bus was due to leave. But passengers were queuing to board the bus, delaying its departure, I joined the queue, boarded the bus, and arrived in Billund literally two minutes after my scheduled arrival time. Really remarkable!
Anyway, I am about to leave for the return journey to London… How’s that going to go I wonder? Fingers crossed. Billund – Kolding – Köln – Bruxelles – London here I come!