When Bremen leads rankings, it is usually by coming up from behind. The most recent example: train stations. In the European Railway Index 2023, the Weserstadt train station ranks last. According to the US Consumer Choice Center (CCC), Bremen tops the list of the most passenger-unfriendly train stations in all of Europe, followed by Munich and Berlin. The results are controversial because the survey is questionable and the client is criticized as a lobby association. However, they are shockingly close to the truth.

As a commuter, I’ve spent enough time on drafty train platforms in Germany to be able to say with certainty: it couldn’t get any worse.

In the morning on the way to work, I feel sorry for the homeless people who peel themselves out of their sleeping bags in the rear station hall in Bremen, break down their camp, makeshift combing their hair and brushing their teeth. When you arrive in Hamburg, the crowds of people who stream in all directions without taking into account the oncoming traffic marked on the ground are annoying, blocking stairs and always stopping exactly where you have to get through particularly quickly.

As a student, I thought train stations were great – interesting junctions, lots to observe, or so I thought at the time. From high-earning businessmen to the poorest people in the city, everyone is represented at train stations. Such social contrasts initially distracted me from train frustration, which, however, came to me in regular spurts when trains were late or canceled altogether. So almost always.

No matter how benevolently you set off for the train station, it’s no use. Most recently I got stranded in Nienburg on the way from Hanover towards Bremen. There was nothing to see, apart from the evening rush hour and anxious passengers. The promised replacement traffic never came. In between, a DB employee in a neon-colored vest ran through the crowd and shouted information into the snowstorm, which rose into the sky as cold clouds of smoke. What did he say? One could only guess. Communication was a disaster. At the end everyone got back on the train that went straight to Bremen. It took us almost four to cover the route that would otherwise take an hour and a half.

And yet that doesn’t begin to describe my longest odyssey on such a short route (record: six hours from Hamburg to Bremen). In any case, train stations do not function as a place of consolation or a place of appeasement – not in Nienburg and not in Hamburg either. This might exist elsewhere.

Back to Bremen, according to the ranking the worst of all bad train stations, because the next point lurks there: uncertainty. An alcohol and drug ban zone has been in effect in the Hanseatic city since October, and the number of officers on site has been increased. But that is hardly reassuring to me, because where there are a lot of police, danger is not far away – and it lurks on many corners here. In Bremen it is, among other things, youth gangs that literally made the area unsafe last year.

In the summer, it was just before midnight and my work had taken a little longer, I had to leave my bike at the train station when a man came after me. He didn’t want to understand my no. In a panic, I fled to the nearest train stop, hoping the night bus would take me home safely. The police officers, who I could have really used, were nowhere to be seen. I didn’t pick up my bike until the next day.

Waiting, hoping, fearing: these are the conditions I experience most often at train stations. Is the train coming and if so, with how many carriages? And will I reach my destination or will the next route closure, the next personal injury, the next train overtake already lurk? The fact that I feel uncomfortable at train stations is not just the fault of Deutsche Bahn, admittedly. But it would be up to her to make the train stations better. More beautiful. More bearable.

You don’t need any rankings to come to this conclusion. You just have to commute.