Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Public transport in Frankfurt: Additional notes

I could have picked a better day to make my video about the public transport system of Frankfurt; it was, if not the hottest day of the year, certainly not the ideal weather to be stomping about in the city. But into every life a little rain must fall (metaphorically, in this case), so I braved the elements and tried not to choke on the smog.

Of course, it’s tricky getting everything into a five-minute video (any more and people would have fallen asleep), so here are a few little extra bits — starting, though, with the map of the airport that did actually make the final cut:

There are, as I mentioned in the video, two stations. Or rather, the station is divided into two: tracks 1, 2 and 3 are in the older station, right below the entrance to Terminal 1, and are for local traffic; while tracks 4 to 7 are on the other side of the autobahn, and are for long-distance trains. You’d notice if you were going for the long-distance station by mistake: it’s quite a long walk. Printed timetables helpfully number the tracks “Regio 1” to “Regio 3” for local trains, and “Fern 4” to “Fern 7” for long-distance trains.

To get there from Terminal 2, you can walk if you’re a glutton for punishment, or you can take a courtesy bus or the SkyLine monorail. Currently under construction is Terminal 3, which is at the other end of the airport to the south, and will require an even longer journey by SkyLine.

I’m not completely sure of the logic of using an “S” to indicate the regional station and “T” to indicate the long-distance station, but that’s what’s on the signs at the airport.

For S-Bahn trains into Frankfurt, you need track 1: during the day, there should be one train every 15 minutes. Any S-Bahn train will do. Other regional trains departing from that platform will be travelling in the right direction, but those headed for Hanau or Aschaffenburg will call at Frankfurt Süd (also known as “Südbahnhof”): that’s okay, because you can still get off there and take the U-Bahn into the centre.

Some regional trains going towards Frankfurt depart, rather confusingly, from track 2, which also has trains travelling away from the city. It’s probably best simply to go to track 1 and take whichever S-Bahn train comes in next.

Regarding the Hauptbahnhof (“Hauptbahnhof” or “Hbf” indicates a city’s most important — not necessarily the most central — station), don’t be worried by the fact that track numbers go up to 104. It’s common, when a station is in two separate sections, for tracks in one section to be numbered beginning at 1, and in another section beginning at 101. That way, you can tell at a glance which part of the station the track you need is going to be. In this case, ground-level platforms are numbered 1 to 24, and low-level platforms (for most S-Bahn trains) are numbered 101 to 104.

The next map shows Frankfurt’s railways, with the S-Bahn in green and other lines in red:

Names of regional and long-distance stations are given, along with the types of train that stop there: anything in red is long-distance; “RB” indicates the “RegionalBahn”, with trains that call at every stop; and “RE” is “RegionalExpress”, with trains that, well, don’t call at every stop. The main point about this one is to give a brief overview of where the various long-distance stations are: probably a bit useless, but it might be useful for somebody.

Potentially more useful is this map of central Frankfurt:

Here, names of S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations are in white, while blue-green is for important areas of the city.

The only other thing to say is that the area around the Hauptbahnhof is not particularly pleasant. Frankfurt has, by German standards, a very high crime rate, and this is concentrated around the Hauptbahnhof area. This mostly involves drugs, and with it associated problems like violence (due to turf wars) and the like. The authorities have been unable to get a proper handle on the issue, and attempts to clean it up only result in temporarily moving it elsewhere. At the time of writing, the dealers have left Münchener Straße and are instead on Niddastraße.

It’s important to stress that while the crime rate is high, it is high by German standards — compared to many US cities, for example, it’s really not that bad. Still, walking out of the station to get a lungful of the aroma of urine is not a pleasant introduction to Germany, or to Frankfurt. You might, if this sort of thing worries you, want to avoid getting hotel or hostel accommodation in this area.

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