Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Bahn Mess

It took several days, but German journalists finally started to dig into the Mainz train station episode.  What started ten days ago as a shutdown situation, because there just weren't enough controllers to operate the railyard and ensure the safety of trains passing turning into a management mess.  The union can probably safely say they weren't part of the planning of this, and just stand there shaking their head.

Apparently, several years ago....the idea of flipping various pieces of the Bahn over to private companies got into full turbo mode.  One of those operations involved the controllers....from across the country.  What management determined....was if they could cut enough manpower....the profit margin would increase, and make this little company very attractive for accusation.

It's an American management game....where you pretty-up the hog, fatten enough, and then get someone hyped to buy what looks very attractive.  The general issue is that as you hit absolute highs on are simply in a waiting game for some problem to develop.  So you want this 'hog' sold as you hit the high spot, and avoid coming down into a mess later as the new owners figure out they really didn't buy into a very profitable operation.

Well, these management guys with the Bahn....guessed wrong.

Mainz's controller operation was set to absolute minimum, and one can only assume a retirement or a couple of sick-note guys....would suddenly turn this critical job into a major problem.  Since you can't go out and hire guys to fill the slots takes months to plan for your operation, it's manpower, and it's continued safe and effective mode during leave-periods.

Based on several newspapers and their commentary....the Bahn management folks are quietly meeting with the union, and 'solutions' are being discussed.

I doubt if anyone says the magic number of new employees for the controller shortfalls across the nation, but I'd take a humble guess that you will see 2,000 new controllers by late 2014.  Course, it will take a year to get them certified and the potential for more shortfalls over the rest of 2013.....still exists.  

As for a new buyer on the horizon?  Forget about it.  This recent episode will freeze out any new buyer for at least two or three years.  And the profit margin?  I don't think they will talk much over this for the next year or two.

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