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Feb 06 2010

Snowbound in the wrong city

Southern Sweden is experiencing its snowiest winter in about 15 years, and as a person who has always felt that "as long as it's cold, there might as well be snow," I've actually been enjoying it. But the latest blast of the white stuff caught the region's commuter train system completely off guard last Tuesday, making an already difficult situation both harrowing and even dangerous for folks trying to get home from work and school.  

The snow had been falling since just before noon, so I started monitoring the status of the train traffic online to see if and when they were expecting delays.  If worse came to worse, I could head for Malmö early and work from home the remainder of the afternoon. Just after 4 p.m. I turned down a ride home from my boss because two different rail monitoring websites indicated that train delays were not significant. Silly me for expecting that information to be accurate.

So I gave my iPhone a quick charge in anticipation of a potentially slow but steady ride south, and then trudged up to the Landskrona station to catch the 4:45 train, which the aforementioned websites were reporting to be running about 9 minutes late. IF ONLY.

That train, nor any other train heading south, arrived at the station for the next TWO AND A-HALF HOURS…which would have been tolerable had Skånetrafiken communicated it. But instead they just kept changing the destinations and times on the platform signs…leading us all to believe that a train was coming if we just waited out in the snow and wind a little bit longer.  There is only one enclosed shelter on each platform at the Landskrona station, and it was packed to the gills. Besides, given how few trains were apparently running, the only way to insure that you'd actually be able to board was to be out on the platform and right in front of one of the doors when it arrived.

Even more frustrating was the fact that in that same two and a-half hour time-span, we watched a half-dozen trains pass on their way north…the last two of which were virtually empty.  WTF? At one point I sought shelter in the pedestrian tunnel between the two platforms, which was precisely the time when the first announcement made in hours came over the public address system. But since I was in the tunnel, I couldn't hear what was being said, so I called out to a young man who was at the top of the stairs leading to Platform 3. Here is our exchange, word-for-word:

"What did he say?" I shouted into wind in Swedish.

"That a southbound train will arrive in 15 minutes."

"And do you believe it?"

"Do you beleive in God?"

"Not tonight, I don't!"

At this point I called a colleague who lives in Landskrona and begged to be rescued. Eliza picked me up a little after 7:00 and fed me supper. I was prepared to spend the night on her couch until her husband found yet another website that seemed to indicate that trains were moving south again. He drove me back to the station just before 8:00 and promised to wait in the car until he was certain I was actually on a train. I jumped on the first one that arrived even though it was only going as far as Lund, where the train staff was convinced I'd have several options for getting the rest of the way home to Malmö.

It took almost an hour to get to Lund (which is normally an 18-minute trip), and once there the lack of information from Skånetrafiken continued apace. At one point the departure board had three trains going in opposite directions leaving from the SAME platform in a 10-minute time span. I'm pretty sure the laws of physics would not permit that to happen.

The southbound train that finally did show up hadn't been listed on the board at all, and was run by the Swedish railway system SJ rather than Skånetrafiken (which is regional). This means that my commuter card didn't cover the fare…something another stranded Swede felt compelled to point out. I told him I didn't care, because if SJ wanted to throw me in jail at least I'd be out of the weather.

I finally arrived home at 10:30 p.m., a full 6 hours after I'd left my office, and while I can't blame Skånetrafiken for the horrendous weather, I do think it's inexcusable that they shared virtually ZERO information about what was going on. Had they told people the delays were going to be hours long, we would have had the option of deciding whether or not to wait it out or make arrangements to stay put for the night. Instead we were kept in limbo, in most cases waiting outside in a snowstorm for hours at a time.

MONUMENTAL FAIL.

I worked from home on Wednesday.

Feed my ego!

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