The Telegraph
Wednesday , August 1 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Welcome aboard

I couldn’t help laughing to myself when the driver said on the public address system: “Ladies and gentlemen, this train is very crowded. Please keep your luggage on the racks.”

I was on a train somewhere in France and there were hardly 10 people standing in the passage between the seats.

“This driver guy has not been to India,” I thought.

Trains are a great way to go around Europe. You can not only experience the wonderful landscape along the tracks but also reach far-off destinations pretty quickly because the high-speeds trains run at speeds of more than 300kmph. The only downside is the cost, which, I would say, is justified considering the services. But they are high nonetheless and at times, flights are cheaper. For travellers, it’s sensible to buy a railway pass beforehand based on your requirements.

But, however much time you spend on researching a trip, some things never go as planned.

I was on my way from Wuppertal in Germany to Maastricht in The Netherlands and I had to change trains at a station called Herzogenrath. As the train slowed down at the station, I stood ready with my two bags. There was no one else waiting to get down at my door.

The train stopped. I waited for the sliding doors to open. They didn’t. I waited a bit more. They still didn’t. I waited some more and the train began moving.

“Did that just happen for real?” I was blank.

Most Indian trains don’t even have their doors shut when in motion and I was not ready for this.

I saw a guy sitting close by and went to him for help.

“I was supposed to get down at Herzogenrath but my door didn’t open. Could you tell me what went wrong?”

“That’s weird. You pressed the button, right?” asked Mathias. I got to know his name later.

“What button?!”

Mathias took me to the door and pointed at a small and circular red thingy. “See this button? When the train stops, green LED lights appear around it. You have to press it to get the door to open,” he explained.

That wasn’t my first train in Germany. But I realised, every time I’d been on a train before, there were more people waiting to get off at the same station as mine. All those times, I hadn’t noticed one of them pushing that all-important button.

Thankfully, the situation wasn’t so bad for me. I got off at a nearby junction called Aachen and took the next train from there.

I reached Maastricht an hour late.