Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Thalys Effect

If you are an American and traveling around Europe by are continually surprised at the innovation, the quality of the rail service, and the ease of passing borders.  Well....after the Thalys attempted attack (last weekend)....there's going to be some discussions with Interior Ministers from various countries, and you might be surprised how things change in the future.

There's a discussion underway now on more background checks of passengers and baggage on trains.  It's hard for me to imagine how they would do this and how they'd ensure the security required to make this work (TSA-like situations would upset everyone).

There's talk of a registered ticket....meaning you have to show your passport or use some form of ID with the on-line purchase of the ticket.  Presently, you can walk up to a German machine at any bahnhof and buy a ticket with cash or credit card.  It takes roughly sixty seconds to buy such a ticket.....even a long-distance ticket from Frankfurt to Amsterdam via ICE (the high-speed rail service).

As a minimum....the talk indicates that showing your passport might be required at borders in the near future.

What probably will occur?  The ministers will come to a meeting and probably agree to designate some routes as "international".  With this 'note' will only be able to get on the train if you buy your ticket via their registration system, show an ID and allow some checking of your bags and self while boarding.

How this would work with 500-odd customers showing up at the Frankfurt bahnhof and boarding on a train to Paris or beyond me. You'd have to have a protected area (fenced off), with five or six security people at the entrance way to the ramp to board.  The train would have to be sanctioned off and everyone checked prior to boarding.  A simple arrival and fifteen minutes of people boarding?  Impossible.  It'd take at least an hour for 500-odd riders to be checked via the registered ticket process and have their bags checked prior to leaving the station.

The Frankfurt station wasn't built to be a security enhanced facility....neither was the new Berlin station, the old Wiesbaden station....or for that matter....any station in Germany.

Even if you got past the idea of doing this for a dozen-odd routes in Europe, what about the 3,000 short-range routes?  Like Wiesbaden to Eltville (a twenty-minute ride)?  Or Kaiserslautern to Saarbrucken (a twenty-five minute ride)?  These would all be unprotected?  Yeah. If I were the Jihadist'd take five minutes to figure out that I need to go on a short-distance train to get my message across instead of the international route train.

The thing is....if you ride the German rail was designed in the past couple of decades for quick entry and exit.  A guy could arrive at some station and find the right ramp in a matter of seconds, and enter a train.  Trains would usually pull into major stations and be there for no more than fifteen minutes while people got off or got on.  Then they'd pull out.

If you accept all of these changes....why would you not pursue the same logic with bus service as well?  Can you imagine three security guys standing there and checking you out while you board the Frankfurt to Amsterdam bus, and it takes sixty minutes to get the passengers loaded and the bags checked?

All of this leads me to this observation.  If they go and make up the registered tickets for certain routes, and you end up in some security line at Frankfurt to get to the boarding process....and you have to allow your bags to be viewed by security....why bother traveling by train?  You might as well go over to the airport and use some airline.  This makes me think that railway usage on international routes will see decreased usage after the rules change, and the political folks asking why fifty percent of railway riders gave up their traditional usage of long-distance trains after they put the rule into effect.

Yeah, it's a mess.

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