What happens when the ticket machine swallows a note?

A ticket machine in OberurselI was on my way back from the Oberursel Christmas Market a few weeks ago, when I encountered a problem at the U-Bahn station.

Having given most of my small change to the street vendors at the market, I tried to pay for my ticket home with a 5 Euro note.

Except that the ticket machine on the side of the tracks going in my direction did not accept notes!  This is a ridiculous situation, considering that the station was re-built within the past year.

With only a few minutes to go until the train arrived, I dashed back across the crossing to the other side to buy my ticket.  Only for the ticket machine to swallow my 5 Euro note. [Read more…]

What to do when the ticket machine does not work

When I was a student in Germany, I used to take the train into Frankfurt every few weeks.  The only trouble was, that the ticket machines at the station were often out of order.

I remember that the first time this happened, I asked another passenger what I should do, and they told me to write down the serial numbers of all of the ticket machines, and if anyone wanted to see my ticket I should tell them what had happened and prove it using the numbers.

I was reminded of this the other day, as – just as I was in the process of paying – the only machine at our local station decided that it was not going to issue me with a ticket.  (Incidentally it had also locked in my bank card!)

Out of order

Out of order - Außer Betrieb

So what should you really do in such circumstances?

Writing down the number of the machine is certainly a good idea.  Apparently, if you are checked by a ticket inspector, they write down your name and address and send someone to see if the machine really was faulty (and presumably fix it).

However, I have since heard of people who then received a bill for the “erhöhtes Beförderungsentgeld” (that’s the fine for travelling without a ticket), because the machine was allegedly working.

I always wondered how such things happened – now I know!  Having retrieved my bank card and noted the machine number, we waited for our train to arrive.  After a few minutes, the machine reverted to its normal state and the “Außer Betrieb” notices disappeared.  We bought our tickets with cash and the train eventually came.

Now, supposing the train had been a few minutes earlier and we had been unable to buy those tickets. Anyone going to check the machine the next day would not have found the problem.  (Or do they have audit trails in the software?)

After making some enquiries, I still do not have anything official, but I do have some new advice.  Not only is it wise to note down the number(s) of the machine(s), but you should advise the train driver as well.  It is then up to him or her to either let you travel without a ticket – something they can then vouch for when the ticket inspectors get on the train.  Or they can let you off at the next stop and wait while you buy a ticket there.  I emphasise the wait because normally the time at a U-Bahn stop would not be sufficient.

Finally, if ticket inspectors do get into your carriage, it is important to make yourself known to them straight away and get them to talk to the driver.  Do not wait for them to come to you!

By the way, the machine really does have to be out of order.  If you don’t have the right change, and the machine is not taking notes or bank cards, then that is not considered sufficient to travel without a ticket.

The alternative is to travel a different way – if you can!

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