29 May, 2007

speaking about monopoly

Back to business! I finally recovered from my sickness. After being told by a 'somewhat unfriendly' German doctor that he found no dodgy indication in my blood test result, i felt a bit relieved from the prospect of having infected by malaria after our last Indonesia's visit. Apparently, Lucy was not fully convinced that my illness was just an effect of exhaustion, lack of sleep, bad diet and combined by extreme weather change. So, she had a small internet research about the possible ailment from my symptom. And she found out that my symptoms might have been from malaria, which i of course strongly doubted. It fully fit the criteria, she mentioned. And later, she 'successfully' forced me to arrange an appointment with a German GP to have a thorough blood test. I was surely reluctant about the idea but nevertheless would give it a go. The test was done and the result was negative (as i presumed at the first place!). Despite having experienced a wee inconvenience during the whole processes with the GP, I was nevertheless grateful to lucy and afterward feeling ready for my next adventure. Yup, my internship at GEPA.

I was supposed to do my internship last summer, as it is part of the requirements to complete our course. But for some reasons i was not able to accomplish this at early stage. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do it in the area which i quite enjoy doing, fair trade, in the regional office one of the biggest fair trade organisation in Europe, GEPA. I have been doing it for two weeks and commute every day from Fulda to Alzenau which takes 1,5 hours with the regional train. It took a while to get used to it but it is only a matter of habituation until one can fully enjoy what one does. Besides that, i've always treated myself with books and music along the journey, and therefore i must say it's always been a pleasant thing to do. But today something slightly changed my mind. As i set off from Fulda at 7 o'clock, the train moved rather in slow pace and it was 10 minutes delayed from the original departure time. Some passangers were really grumpy before the train eventually set off. One could really hear them whinning and bemoaning inside the train, expressing their dissatisfaction of the service from the Deutsche Bahn, the state railways company. I was not surprised at all when this thing occurred, as it was not the first time the train departure delayed from its original schedule, especially during the past two weeks where i've become closer enough to witness their performance.

So, the train kept going in steady pace until it was surprisingly halted at some place in between Fulda and Hanau and had to be returned back to previous train station. The official announced that they were experiencing problems with the railway and therefore the train had to return and travel from another platform at the previous train station. I was thinking to text my co-worker from gepa because he normally picks me up at the other train station and drives from there to the office. At that point i began to realise that i actually forgot to bring my mobile and left it at home (Oupfh! is life not ironic? Most of the time when i needed the train to be slightly late, even if it was only 30 seconds, it never was late and always punctual. On the contrary, when i needed the train to be really punctual, at that very moment, i realised that it always worked the other way round). Anyway, at that point I had to be decisive - which arguably is not one of my strong point - and continued my journey to Hanau. Arriving in Hanau, feeling cold and frustrated, some intriguing question penetrated my mind about the state-owned company performance - in this regard the German railways company. Imagine how many people would be arriving late at the office and became less productive than they were supposed to be? How many passangers could not catch their flight, had they had to travel to the airport and fly overseas? How many students would miss some part of their lecture, had they had early class at the university or school? If one really started to calculate and estimate the casualty that might have emerged from such incident, perhaps interesting numbers or figure would appear.

The thing is, it's not that i am not contented with the service provided by the Deutsche Bahn. They are indeed a very competent service provider and have proved from time to time to be reliable company. Regardless what they've performed recently, they still fulfill certain accountability level which makes the whole difference. Plus, as far as i know, the consumer right protection in Germany is very strong and really well-implemented. So if they detect any erratic or unusual display from public service company, they have the power and ability to turn things round. Then the pressure is there for this company to improve their service. And if their attempt is only to do some lip-service or camouflage to the society, they will fail. The balance is there and the system works properly so to speak.

Yet again, to me, this reminds me to a classical debate whether to open the market for another provider or to keep thing going as it is (i.e. lack of competition for the service and lack of viable substitute service). The presence of the cut-price flight company across the continent, inside the country or amongst region did not seem to move the state railway company either, at least to reduce the fare or giving a certain offer to their loyal costumer. Still, I read in some article that last year the Deutsche Bahn were complaining of the loss and not being able to create good turnover. If the number of people who register their car increase instead of people who buy the annual ticket, I wonder even more how they would react.

In addition to my lovely day, the rain poured really hard and i forgot to bring my umbrella. So i had to walk super fast for about 10 minutes from the train station to the Gepa regional office. All in all, it was somewhat elevating experiences and at the end of the day, one, in this case myself, should and could only laugh at oneself's stupidity. What does not kill you, makes you stronger, said Nietzsche.

Have a jolly good day!


marie said...

Here they just happened to change the system with transantiago...
until february a lot of different bus companies served as the cities public transport. busdrivers drove like crazy in order to pick up as much people as possible to make the most profit...and if you, as a student or a grandma, happened to be the only one at the bus stop it sometimes happened that the busdriver didn´t stop for you as you would pay the reduced price...

Now there is transantiago...all the little companies united in a big one. Bus drivers still drive like crazy (it is so hard to change habits...:-)) and people are unhappy. Buses are full until they burst, don´t serve certain parts of the city and, and, and...this is what the people complain about.
I do not complain. This system is more like the "monopoly-system" I know from Germany ("oeffentlicher nahverkehr"). And I also got quickly adapted to the polychronic way of thinking as bus hours or plans still don't exist. The bus comes when it comes and it goes in about this direction...and it astonishes people when I tell them that buses in Germany come (or are supposed to come) at 10.27 a.m.

The question is, do people here only have to get used to this system or is there really something wrong with it which is why they complain here with transantiago and in Germany with the Deutsche Bahn? Is it also a question of development? Chile is changing from a totally private system to a monopoly system and I think will sooner or later have to nationalize its public transport system. Germany seems to be heading towards the total opposite... has it been there done that???

Ragil said...

It also happened to be that few years ago in Jakarta, our governor tried to rectify our transportation system and its problem respectively. He created the new system which, in my opinion, is similar like they did in Chile with Transantiago. He even called it Transjakarta! (It's probably a fashion in developing countries to add the word "trans" in front of it!) What i found quite ironic from that idea was it didn't really solve our transportation problem. As a matter of fact it was like giving pinch of salt to an open wound. The traffic in Jakarta somewhat got even worse as far as i recall (I got really frustrated when i was driving in Jakarta at that time when i got back there).

Frankly, i was somehow tempted to mention this earlier as an addition, as well as comparison to what i have written. However, i was reluctant and thought that it might have been unfair and irrelevant to compare considering the differences of many aspects from each country. Discipline and mentality are perhaps few from those aspects that determines why such system works in this country and not in that country and vice versa.

What i'm trying to say is a formula or a system that works effectively and fits to all circumstances is fictional and simply nonexistent. Yes, I am skeptical. Contextual is the word, in my opinion. Learning and adopting the already-working-effectively system from other country which has similar problems, as well as situational background is also a profound idea (sort of Open Method of Coordination in a global scale).

Or maybe it does not have anything to do with the system nor the country itself at all. Perhaps it simply is just our nature: never be able to feel contented or satisfied with what we have. No matter how good it is, it's just never be good enough. Well?