My wife and I just got back from a very pleasant few days in Vienna. We could have flown but we just fancied using the train instead.
To round off our visit we had decided to travel home to Basel in style by booking a Double Delux sleeper compartment on the 21.18 service from Westbahnhof to Zürich. For this we paid the princely sum of SFr282.00.
When we boarded the train at Westbahnhof, we were informed by the stewardess that for whatever reason, insufficient sleeper carriages had been mounted onto the train and we were thus relegated to a normal double cabin which was barely big enough to swing a cat in.
Our disappointment did not stop at the enforced compartment change.
When we asked for a space to put our luggage - which was now needed as we had packed expecting a larger compartment; our large case was placed in a locked compartment however we were informed that there would be no guarantee of its safety as there are more staff than just the stewardess with a key to the compartment. On hearing this news I began to wonder about the recruitment policy operated by ÖBB.
When we asked for the beds to be folded out, this was not correctly done and in the end we had to complete the job ourselves.
Later, when my wife wanted to use the toilet in the corridor, she was informed it was broken.
The following morning, the breakfast that came consisted of a couple of bread rolls which were quite stale - my wife ended up leaving hers.
Further annoyance came when compensation was offered. We were given a refund slip to hand in at the railway station where we made the booking - Basel SBB, and vouchers for EUR16.00 which can only be used at an Austrian rail station. Given that we live nowhere near an Austrian rail station, and are unlikely to visit one before the vouchers expire at the end of 2007, and in light of the shoddy treatment and poor service we received such a gesture was both derisory and insulting.
Instead of arriving home relaxed and refreshed, we arrived tired and angry that an otherwise pleasant stay in Vienna had been ruined by our experience at the hands of ÖBB, and that little or nothing had been done to remedy the situation.
To add insult to injury, when we went to the SBB Customer Service (a contradition in terms IMHO) all the gentleman at the desk was prepare to offer was the difference between a 1st and second class compartment SFr48. It was only after we kicked up a fuss that he offered us the difference between the first and second class train journey.
The disappointment of our journey was enough without having the additional stress of having to negotiate our refund - which was in the end less than satisfactory.
The cost of flying to Vienna from Basel is not significantly more than using the train and I know which option I will be using in the future.
I have written to both SBB and ÖBB and will post up how (and if) they respond.
I am not surprised. OEBB sucks bigtime. After the Vienna half-marathon a few weeks back, I had a nice train ride back to Swissieland including a seat reservation to look forward to.
Low and behold, due to Iceland's attack on the airline industry, the trains were packed. Oh, and we forgot to put up those little signs for the reserved seats, says the conductor, and no, I am not gonna ask those nice people that are in your seats to leave, and you're screwed. Sitting on the floor in front of the bathroom is not quite as nice ... so yeah, in the future it's air travel for me (die, trees, die).