A little while back, I blogged about the Squealing Wheels Problem of the little railway that connects our valley to civilisation (even if it is Hanau, which I am told technically counts as civilisation). The problem was no so much the squealing wheels and a host of other problems, but the unforgivable fact that the railway is run by the Hessians.
This morning, the newspaper reported that the man in charge of running our little line had been summoned to Munich to answer a few awkward questions regarding the reliability of the line. If you read only the headline and the first couple of paragraphs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that criminal proceedings and possibly a public hanging were in the offing. At the very least, the CEO of the company would be tarred, feathered and hauled over hot coals. Finally, retribution. Even Amnesty International, normally so squeamish about torture, would turn a blind eye to this one.
Anyone who actually read the entire article, though, would come away with a slightly different impression. While it is true that, of the dozen or so privately run railways in Bavaria, ours is the worst rated, the verdict of the commission looking into the issue was that the situation was “bad, but by no means catastrophic”. To the chagrin of those who believe the Hessians are rank somewhere between Neanderthal and chimp, half the problems that beset the railway are not the operator’s fault at all, but the fault of the company responsible for the infrastructure — a Bavarian company. And as for the commonest complaint, that since the Hessians took over the trains have always been late, our railway is the most punctual of the Bavarian private railways, with 98% of trains running on time, about the same rate as it was when the Bavarians were in charge.
It’s one of those strange facts in life that it is our immediate neighbours we despise the most. This is just further proof of that.