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Punctuality of DB-Swiss trip

Punctuality of DB-Swiss trip

Old Jun 5, 17, 2:26 pm
  #1  
nrr
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Punctuality of DB-Swiss trip

Many long distance routings span several countries.
I boarded a DB (equipment) train in Zurich and got off in Chur the END of that route (per route info sheet): this train began at 00:30 in Hamburg-Altona, it departed Zurich on schedule at 10:17 and arrived in Chur 1 MINUTE late.
This train (essentially) covers Germany N-S, and Switzerland NW-NE and arrived ONLY 1 minute late.
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Old Jun 5, 17, 4:37 pm
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Around 80% of DB trains arrive within 5 minutes, an over 90% arrive within 15 minutes in 2017.
(source).

By Japanese standards, this train would be late.
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Old Jun 6, 17, 3:55 am
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Originally Posted by nrr View Post
This train (essentially) covers Germany N-S, and Switzerland NW-NE and arrived ONLY 1 minute late.
Don't count on it. The last time I travel by train in Germany, I had two connections to make. I only made both connections because every single train I took was running late (not a minute, but >30 minutes).
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Old Jun 6, 17, 2:32 pm
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Well, this example is probably not representative of train services in Europe.

First of all, this was a train running overnight. During that time, the timetables are usually stretched quite a lot (sometimes with reserves of up to one hour, and almost 10 hours between Hamburg and Zürich seems like a loooot of time), and then, there's not that much traffic on most main routes, so trains probably won't run late (unless they are delayed due to waiting for other connecting trains when the connection is the last for the day).

However, as soon as night shift ends, SBB have another trick to buffer some of DBs infamous delays. Station stops will be quite long (particularly, for trains coming from germany, in Basel SBB), and sometimes, on-time trains even have to stop on open track for several minutes in order to "waste" the additonal travel time that they have in their timetable to buffer delays. ICE trains between Zürich and Basel, for example, take about one hour, even though the distance could also be covered in 45 minutes. I once had this situation, where we departed Zürich HB on the second, and arrived Basel SBB also on the second, but had been standing somewehere in the countryside for 10 minutes or so. As soon as we had crossed the border to Germany, we were running 10 minutes behind schedule.

Hence, if you ever wonder why train travel in Switzerland seems to be so terribly slow (when looking at the timetables), you now know that they are just factoring in time to avoid delays. This is actually necessary in order to make the logic behind train timetables in Switzerland work in the first place. The entire train system is constructed around tight connections, which means that if any train is late, the entire system might collapse.
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Old Jun 6, 17, 2:58 pm
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To keep train scheduled departures at the same minutes each hour they must have devised a computer program to retard train timings.
I find it "nice" that at XX:37 for most of the day you can go from Zurich HBF to Chur.
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Old Jun 6, 17, 3:59 pm
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Originally Posted by nrr View Post
To keep train scheduled departures at the same minutes each hour they must have devised a computer program to retard train timings.
I find it "nice" that at XX:37 for most of the day you can go from Zurich HBF to Chur.
Technical term: clock-face scheduling (DE: Taktfahrplan)
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Old Jun 7, 17, 9:04 am
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Originally Posted by WorldLux View Post
Don't count on it. The last time I travel by train in Germany, I had two connections to make. I only made both connections because every single train I took was running late (not a minute, but >30 minutes).
I have also heard these experiences, albeit anecdotally, on many occasions. DB is indeed quite infamous for delays, which does sit somewhat oddly against the country's reputation for efficiency...
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Old Jun 7, 17, 11:36 am
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This particular route's punctuality is well below DB average. The train travels through some of the most-congested routes within the entire DB network (e.g., the so-called Riedbahn). Essentially, you got lucky.
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Old Jun 7, 17, 12:23 pm
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Originally Posted by nrr View Post
I boarded a DB (equipment) train in Zurich and got off in Chur the END of that route (per route info sheet): this train began at 00:30 in Hamburg-Altona, it departed Zurich on schedule at 10:17 and arrived in Chur 1 MINUTE late.
To add to bruce80's explanation, your particular train is timetabled to dwell 13 minutes in Frankfurt(Main) Hbf, 8 minutes in Mannheim Hbf, 6 minutes in Basel Bad, 20 minutes in Basel SBB and 7 minutes in Zurich HB.

So almost an hour of padding, ignoring any stopping on tracks or slow running. I don't know how to find working timetables for German trains. As mentioned, the majority of passengers will be asleep for the first part of the journey.

If it departed Hamburg Altona at 0130, it would still probably arrive at Zurich on time, although mainly because it is running overnight and there are very few conflicting movements (maybe freight, which is less of a problem to delay).
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Old Jun 8, 17, 10:08 pm
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Many Swiss stations are "stub ended": Zurich and Luzern i.e.
At one time for these two they had to bring in an engine to attach to the rear (which is now the front); but now most trains have an engine in front and back, but the "motorman" must walk the length of the train, so 7 minutes (or more) is normal from arrival to departure.
Zurich now has 8 new (underground) tracks 31-34 and 41-44, which are NOT "stub ended", yet trains also wait on these tracks, probably to pad connection times from the main level trains to the subterranean tracks.
But however they are doing it, the system is very efficient.
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Old Jun 9, 17, 6:04 am
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Originally Posted by nrr View Post
Many Swiss stations are "stub ended": Zurich and Luzern i.e.
At one time for these two they had to bring in an engine to attach to the rear (which is now the front); but now most trains have an engine in front and back, but the "motorman" must walk the length of the train, so 7 minutes (or more) is normal from arrival to departure.
In some systems (such as the Victoria line in London) "stepping back" is used for faster turnarounds - when a train arrives at a terminus station, the driver for the reverse journey is already waiting at the "back" of the train, which becomes the front. The train then moves off while the previous driver is walking the length of the train.

Some systems have drivers at both ends of trains all the time so they can take it in turns to drive and rest.
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