SJ, get your act together!

I was going to Ballerup for a job-related course, so I booked tickets on the usual X2000 to Copenhagen. As occasionally happens, first class tickets turned out to be cheaper than second class, so I went for them. Meal reservation? Yes, please. However, SJ still can’t prebook dietary restrictions, so I’d have to call them again 24 hours before departure to order my meal.

It struck me later that it would be unreasonable to have to call exactly 24 hours before departure, but that it was a bit unclear whether one should call 24 hours beforehand at the earliest or at the latest. If the latter, one would think they should be able to do the booking already when I booked the tickets, if the former, it’s unclear when the last possible moment to call is. Presumably the actual window during which one should call is something different entirely. In any case, when I called, approximately 24 hours before departure, the person at the other end took my dinner requirements and claimed to leave a message for the uptrip as well. Good, then I wouldn’t have to call from Denmark and sit in a telephone queue for that.

I left in the afternoon of Grundlovsdagen. At first I had to struggle a bit to get the wireless connection to work on the train, but a reboot of the machine (my office XP box) eventually solved the problem and I was able to get some crucial job done.

Eventually I got my dinner, which was perfectly decent for a micro-waved readymade.

We stopped on schedule at Malmö C, and then we remained stopped. For quite some while. The train driver explained that we were waiting for a “timetable” from the Transport Administration to continue into Denmark. I found it a bit surprising that a daily train would not have a pre-prepared timetable, but regardless we sat waiting for it for an hour.

Finally the hassle was solved and we rolled the last bit of the way into Copenhagen. Now to get on the local train to Ballerup. There were ticket machines in the station hall, but I was not able to figure out what kind of ticket I was supposed to buy, so I got into the queue at a manual desk and got my ticket. Pretty steep at 48 DKK, I thought, but then Stockholm has in general fairly cheap (in several senses) public transport. I located my platform and looked at the ticket cancelling machines, but my ticket seemed to be the wrong size, so I asked a railway employee how I should go about matters. “Oh, you’ve wasted your money. Today’s the first Sunday in the month, so travel is free.” Argh!

Anyway, I got on the train, which was quite spacious and equipped with wireless Internet and television screens. I got off at Malmparken, which was the station closest to both my hotel and the training site. The only other people getting off was a couple of young women, also looking a bit disoriented. They turned out to be Portuguese students, there for a course at the university. As is my (bad) habit, I took the lead and we trundled away in the general direction I remembered from the map lookup before I left. (Stupid to not have printed out the map, but it had looked as if the hotel would be visible from the station. Not quite so.) I poked my head in at a McDonald’s we passed and received a course correction and soon we arrived at Zzzleep. Friendly checkin and the room was clean and nice, but had the narrowest beds I’ve ever seen. I carefully centred myself and soon slept.

In the morning I checked the map and took out the course to the training site. What I saw of Ballerup wasn’t all that exciting—an industrial area quartered by motorways. The course turned out to exceed my expectations, it proceeded at a breathtaking pace and I had to struggle to keep up. At least the teachers were kind enough to talk English, rather than Danish, though I noticed chatting over lunch that the Danes had even more difficulty understanding my Swedish than I their Danish. How strange, Swedish that is so clearly enunciated… By 17 I was tired but pleased—I would have lots of things to improve when I got back to the office. I bought some postcards and stamps (“Two to Sweden and one to Uruguay!?” Yes, please.) and then proceeded to an Italian restaurant I’d noticed along the way. It was nice enough and I had a pleasant meal. Back at the hotel I flipped on the TV to find a Columbo episode just starting and watched it. Good stuff and I noted with interest that Steve Bochco had written the teleplay for the episode.

The next morning, break-neck work again. When we finished for the day I started towards the train station, as I didn’t have all that much time before my train, the last for the day, would leave from Copenhagen. Now I would have to figure out how to operate the ticket machine, as it was an unmanned station. This machine had an, in principle, more obvious interface than the ones at the central station, on the other hand it was not very responsive to button presses, did not like to read my credit card and in general was hard to operate. I in fact missed one train while attempting to get a ticket, fortunately it was only ten minutes to the next.

When I arrived in Copenhagen I could see the X2000 on the next platform, but as soon as I got there it left. It turned out that this was actually the previous train, that should have left an hour and a half earlier. Oh well. On the other hand, the train I should be on was cancelled. What now? A PA announcement was made to the effect that we should jump on any train going to Malmö and continue from there. Well, OK. I do not know if they had managed to screw up the timetables again, but it was a bit annoying. And what if I’d come on the local train ten minutes later, that I saw pulling into the station just as the train I was on left?

In Malmö, the train was at the platform, but not allowing us on board yet. We milled about a bit until we got on board. Ah, good. Now to get home. Internet connection, check. Meal being served…uh, this is not my order. Confusion. Double-checking. Despite the promise of the SJ person I’d spoken to, the order had not been passed to the caterers. Just brilliant. The train hostess was very sorry, but could only offer me meal tickets for the bistro car, where I already knew I wouldn’t find anything edible but fruit, which I already had for free in my first class car. Apples did only a bit to stave off starvation. When I finally got home, about 01:00, I was pretty hungry and stayed up a bit longer to eat something more substantial.

Then up again in the morning to get to work and employ my new skills.


Martin said...

PAddy K and his kid spent a day going to Malmö and back by train because the bridge to their destination -- Copanhagen -- turned out to be closed. Then the train got stuck halfway back for hours and they didn't get back home until 01:00.

kai said...

I remember having written about the decline of rail transport 5 years ago. Seems nothing has improved since then.