Traveling on the bus so often, I get to hear many stories as well as see many things those who drive in their cars tend to miss – aside from bicycle riders, which we all get to see and, hopefully, miss as they ignore the rules and risk their lives. Today was no exception, and I got to hear a driver explaining why the recent restructuring of the Weser-Ems Bus Company – a part of Deutsche Bahn – is, as he put it but I translate, a clusterfuck.
The company, whether themselves or their parent, decided a while ago that a restructuring would be a good thing. There are things which can be tightened up, optimized, improved in so many ways. There is money to be saved so that the profits can be raised and the shareholders satisfied. Part of this restructuring involved the closing down – as I understand it – of a section of the company involved with handling the money taken in from ticket sales. All sales go through one of several different types of printer where they are registered on a card – or module – and then cashed in at the end of the month, or when a certain sum has been reached. The department is also responsible for ensuring that the software used is up to the minute, that the prices are all correct, and that new tickets are included on time.
Photo Source: Matt Thorpe – Creative Commons
The changes to this department, which had been working just fine up until the restructuring started, occurred at the same time as a new software was loaded into some printers and, as you can imagine, caused some disruptions. All of a sudden there were not enough staff to handle all the work that needed to be done and things were pushed back. The updated printers weren’t available on time and, when they finally appeared, packed with bugs and errors. Amongst other things the bus numbers changed from being either two or three figures to being four, and the route numbers from two or three to seven. All this without the bus drivers, who have to use the machines, being informed of the changes.
I can well imagine a bus driver coming to work at four in the morning, finding a new printer on his bus and not knowing where to start, assuming that the printer worked at all.
Added to which, since there were now less staff, the reading of the cards and modules had to be pushed back. The book-keeping couldn’t be handled effectively and new modules couldn’t be issued to the drivers. At the start of this month some drivers didn’t have a module at all and, therefore, couldn’t sell any tickets. People got to ride the bus for free.
Tomorrow, almost a month after the changes can into effect, the same is going to happen: some drivers have no module and cannot sell tickets. Tomorrow is the busiest day of the month; people queue to buy their tickets for a week or an entire month. It’s not going to happen.
Restructuring is one thing, making things better quite another. Clearly someone looked at the bottom line without considering how it would all fit into place and, as with all such things, they did not fit into place. Money has not been saved, rather there are a lot of frustrated drivers and passengers out there. Hardly a good PR stunt. Perhaps Weser-Ems should reconsider how the business is run, and forget the idea that everything revolves around how much profit they can make, and more how they can efficiently get their passengers from A to B with the right ticket. Not everything can be worked out at a desk, sometimes a little practical experience works wonders.
- Viktoria Michaelis.