Thursday, February 10, 2011
Graz Austria Main Train Station
Since my wife is from Wolfsberg Austria (Carinthia) we travel frequently through the Graz Hauptbahnhof on our way south. There are hourly trains from Vienna to Graz, but then the fun begins.
There is no train service between Graz and Wolfsberg, but there is an "Intercity Bus" which is not bad, about an hour nonstop between the cities operated approximately every two hours. Unfortunately the bus and the train schedules are almost perfectly uncoordinated.
The bus from Wolfsberg (and Klagenfurt) is scheduled to arrive one or two minutes after the train to Vienna leaves. So you need to hang around in Graz Hauptbahnhof for about an hour. In the other direction many of the buses also require a long wait (Friday we waited 57 minutes, since the bus leaves 3 minutes before the next train from Vienna arrives).
Perhaps the reason for this sloppy scheduling is that the buses used to leave a few minutes after the train from Vienna arrived. If the train from Vienna was at all late you missed your connection - then it's almost two-hour wait until the next bus. The new system allows the train to be almost an hour late and you can still make the bus.
Another problem with the bus is that it is frequently overbooked at peak travel times like Friday and Sunday evenings. We were lucky last Friday and they put another bus into service, but we have also been forced to drive to Graz because the bus is full.
You may think - like the sign at the right says - "Missed your train? Great, you can have a coffee at the station" - but I don't know many people who think "Great" about missing their train. Yes, it is great that the station has restaurants and shops, but my goal is to get somewhere not to spend time in the station.
Oh, and one more thing as long as I'm ranting. You need to pay to go to the restroom in Graz! Why can't railway stations - especially railway stations with shopping centres - have free restrooms? I can't think of an automobile-based shopping centre that has restrooms where you need to pay. I understand that railway stations seem to attract people with social problems, but deal with the problems, don't make everyone pay. (Especially if you have restaurants serving coffee and beer!) By the way, the problem is not unique to Graz, they also charge for the restrooms in Vienna and Zurich.
This kind of sloppy scheduling and lack of attention to providing basic customer amenities causes people to drive. Why put up with the hassles of railway travel?
Poor service is especially dumb on this route because the Austrian government is spending about 4 Billion Euros on a tunnel that will replace the bus with rail service; they should be doing everything possible to build up demand on this route so that when the tunnel is finished people will be used to taking public transport. Instead people like us will probably have bought a car since the drive from Vienna is about 3 hours and the train takes 4 and a half hours with the bad connection.