Sheep

Today’s blogpost is inspired by the problem with our dear Finnish people. Or maybe it’s a global thing, humanity itself.

I’m talking about a) tolerance b) being a fucking sheep. Let me present to you a problem that i’ve been having lately.

VR is the state operated railway here in Finland. It operates all trains, and is responsible for collecting ticket fees, operating the stations, platforms etc. They have steadily been increasing prices of train tickets, due to uh.. inflation and rises in operating costs. However, trains don’t seem to go on time during the winter, which makes me a bit angry. My problem is, that i’m constantly paying my ticket, and yet, the trains i count on to get to work and back are never on time when there is a little snow on the ground.

Granted, this winter has been exceptionally bad, with more snow than in any previous year since the 1960’s, but none the less. Where is my money going? It sure as hell isn’t going to improving the reliability of trains in “extreme” weather

Winter is not a new concept in Finland, and many places operate trains far more north than Helsinki, in southern Finland. We get snow, which starts gathering in the machinery of the train, the wheels, the gears and whatnot, which is preventing trains from moving. At least this is according to VR. Also we are having problems with tracks freezing so badly, trains can’t switch tracks as they have to to reach the correct places.

This to me seems like an engineering problem. If you throw enough money at a problem it usually goes away. Increase the amount of plows on the tracks. Put heaters in places where icing is a problem. But this isn’t happening. Why?

Traditionally, when consumers (that’s you and me) have a problem with something, they start complaining. This is happening now with the trains. Inneccent complaining results in either a) the company shutting down because they can’t or can’t afford to fix the issues that the complaints are about, b) the company fixing the problem c) company lowering prices or offering compensation due to lost revenue/time or whatever or the consumers. This isn’t happening either.

VR could shut down their customer support, and stop notifying people of late trains, and what would we do? We’d keep complaining, and keep traveling, because that’s what we do. That’s all we do. We have no other option but to keep traveling. They could just lay off 90% of all their staff, send them to Bermuda or where ever, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. We either accept the problems, or we stop using trains. Which isn’t happening. So we make like sheep.

Why i keep paying for tickets during winter, i don’t know. There should be no ticket fees at all. But they just keep raising the prices, and we keep paying. If a ticket inspector came on any of these late trains (i waited 45 minutes this morning), i would probably punch him the fuck out. But there’s a problem with those guys too. Inspectors get paid from the inspection fees (80 euro, or.. what, 120 dollars?) from everyone traveling without a valid ticket. When they increase the inspection cost, it doesn’t go toward anything else, except paying for more inspectors.

It’s like traffic cameras in Helsinki. The fines sent out by traffic camera pictures, are used to invest in new cameras, so more fines can be had, so more cameras can be bought…

So how is this organisation still operating? Because we are sheep and we don’t really care. We just accept what the news is telling us, what VR is telling us and accep that there is nothing anyone can do. This is 2010. We are a nothern country. We have had winter here since the planet was created, oh, 4.6 billion years ago. This is not a new thing. This is an engineering problem that isn’t being dealt with, because frankly, they don’t need to.

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