Rail-delay scarf: Commuter project fetches €7,550 on eBay

German woman knits two lines each day in colours symbolising length of train delays

 Claudia Weber’s rail-delay scarf. Photograph: Sara Weber

Claudia Weber’s rail-delay scarf. Photograph: Sara Weber

 

Claudia Weber is a seasoned commuter, and she loves to knit.

Over the past year, as her train journey from a town in the Bavarian countryside to Munich was replaced with a bus service during engineering works, stretched to two hours or more, from a scheduled 40 minutes, she had a novel way of working out her frustrations.

Others may roll their eyes, shrug or post complaints on social media. When she got home each evening, she simply added two rows of wool to a striped scarf she was knitting: grey for delays under five minutes, pink for up to 30 minutes and red for a delay of more than half an hour, or delays in both directions.

The resulting 4-foot “Bahn-Verspätungsschal,” or “rail-delay scarf,” has become something of a social-media sensation.

Put on Ebay to raise money for a German charity that provides free assistance to people at train stations, it sold on Monday for €7,550 to an undisclosed buyer.

“It’s not a statistic; it’s one year and how I felt about it,” said Mrs Weber, a 55-year-old travel-agency worker. “I understand the problems they’re having.

“There’s more and more commuters every year, but on the other hand I spend a lot of time waiting.”

Her daily journeys take her between Munich and her home in Moosburg, northeast of the city, along the River Isar.

Claudia Weber’s scarf stretched to 1.5 metres. Photgraph: Sara Weber
Claudia Weber’s scarf stretched to 1.5 metres. Photgraph: Sara Weber

In the spring, everything seemed fine, reflected in rows of grey and pink in the scarf.

But then came the summer, represented by a wide band of red as the engineering works got underway.

While it represented Mrs Weber’s personal perspective, the scarf resonated with a lot of commuters in Germany and around the world, who live with the frustration of daily delays.

After Mrs Weber’s daughter Sara, a journalist in Munich, posted a picture of the scarf on Twitter, it soon drew 23,000 likes and nearly 400 comments, as well as interview requests from local and international news media.

Many praised Mrs Weber’s creativity, and others chimed in with their own ideas, such as commuter bingo of crossing out words such as “faulty door” or “suspicious package”.

“It blew my mind,”Ms Weber said about the reaction to her post. “It has become somewhat of an urban myth that Germans are always on time and trains in Germany run on time, but it’s not always true.”

In fact, voices critical of German state rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which runs Mrs Weber’s train, have grown in recent years.

The company has established a global presence and has subsidiaries running trains across Europe, but it has been accused of lagging on domestic services.

Experts have been warning for years about ageing infrastructure in Germany, and delays and cost overruns in large projects have hurt the country’s reputation for efficiency.

One notorious example is the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, planned as an ultra-modern terminal for the capital.

Ground was broken on the project in 2006, but the building has been standing empty for years and is not expected to open to the public before 2020.

For her part, Mrs Weber has taken the Munich-Moosburg train for 25 years, and has no intention of stopping.

She considered driving, she said, but calculated that it would save her neither time nor money.

“I know I was complaining, but I’m still grateful I have that service,” she added.

Still, this year, she is knitting another scarf. – New York Times