All being well, I am travelling this weekend to Cologne. Unsurprisingly, therefore, I have a airline ticket from Dublin to Cologne. Slightly more surprisingly for those of us in the British Isles, perhaps, is that my flight actually goes from Dublin to Frankfurt. From there, strikes permitting, I will get a train from Frankfurt to Cologne (which, by the way, will cover the distance of Belfast-Dublin in less than an hour) – on the same ticket.
Likewise, I arrived at the superb 24km Oresund Bridge from Malmo to Copenhagen by car a few years ago en route to Hamburg. Immediately at the Bridge I was asked by the attendant for my final destination, and I was handed a ticket to Puttgarden in Germany, including the ferry over from the Danish island of Lolland.
It is an incredibly straightforward thing, yet in Northern Ireland (and I suspect in the UK and Ireland broadly) we cannot even manage it at a local level. For example, if I want to get by public transport from Jordanstown to Groomsport, I have to get one ticket for the train to Bangor, and then another for the bus to Groomsport. As there is no way of knowing how many people on a train arriving in Bangor want to go to Groomsport (or Conlig or wherever), the bus timetable makes no attempt at connecting and the driver will stick to the bus timetable ignoring any trains. It’s ridiculous!
We’ll see how it goes, but if my flight to Frankfurt is delayed, I don’t expect any difficulty with the train – Deutsche Bahn will know not to expect passengers from the Dublin flight on time, so will easily transfer us to a later journey. Yet if my train from Jordanstown to Bangor doesn’t connect with the bus to Groomsport, even if it’s on time, that’s tough luck.
To be clear, Translink doesn’t deserve much of its bad press – it runs a comfortable and punctual service for the most part (although certain bus routes clearly require some work!) and it has made significant advances (such as free WiFi). However, the whole point of a single public transport operator should surely be to integrate services easily.
It’s not just in education that a bit of integrated thinking would help matters!