Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seriously, NSB...

I normally don't complain about the much-harassed Norwegian railroad. I love trains, and one of my big complaints about living in Norway is that the country is so hard to build railroads in. I want much more of it.

But today I realised that NSB really could be smarter than it is. I am trying to find a way to travel from Oslo to Karlstad. I know there are trains there. But NSB refuses to let me see anything beyond the Norwegian borders, and this is just at the other side, 2-3 hours into Sweden.

When I use, I can book tickets all over the world, whether Wideroe or SAS fly there or not. With NSB I don't get any help if I want to pass the border. Perhaps it deserves some of the criticism after all? When I checked the Swedish railroad, going from Oslo to Karlstad (and back) was no problem at all. Go figure.

Hey, NSB, how come the SWEDES can do it, and not you?

(Oh, and if it IS possible to check the time-table on this distance from the NSB site but I was too stupid to find it - well, then a hard look at the user interface would be a brilliant idea.)


unni said...

5 minutter... og der var den. Bra at det er noe jeg klarer å finne ut av.

Torill said...

Elin posted this omment, which I rejectected due to the email address which was posted in it:
Hello Torill & other readers..
I have the same frustration about booking railroad tickets out of Norway as well(why is this blog in English, actually?). Since we lived in Switzerland, I've found which is owned by the Swiss railroad sbb.cff.. This site can give you train info all over Europe (including Norway and Sweden), and also, here you got a lot of booking options. I do'nt know why NSB is so 'narrow'.
I am also writing to you since you are in to media and public transport: I've found this most interesting info about NSB's activity in Sweden. Here, NSB is willing to risk a lot of money in competition with e.g. DSB, SNCF, DB and more.. A competition that even SJ is not interested in. I've made an article on this, but for some reason, Norwegian media (like Aftenposten and VG) is not interested in publishing. I would be more than happe to send you the whole article, and maybe you can help me finding the best media for publishing. Brgds

Torill said...

Elin, or Espen, if that's your name, some responses:

Sorry, but I am not THAT into public transport, afraid I can't help you. Only advice is perhaps to send your article to the NSB magazine, or one of the more specialised papers, such as Dagens Næringsliv or Klassekampen, depending on your angle?

As to why this blog is in English - if you look at the sidebar, you'll see that most of my publishing is in English, and I have for years been involved with an online community where most participants do not read Norwegian. If you want to write your responses in Norwegian, go ahead though.

Elin said...

Espen it is, sorry, but my daughter Elin was aperently logged in to her g.mail. Thanks anyway, for your answer. I am trying to be neutral, meaning no political angle, in my article. I am just trying to figure what NSB wants to achieve with their involvement in Sweden. Are they trying to get some practice in de-regulation etc? Ask your media -and college collegues, pls! Espen..

StellaAu said...

I had the worst travel experience yesterday with nsb. I paid for a Norway in a nutshell ticket. Got on the train in oslo at 8am, couldn't even reach the first stop, has to return to oslo steer much confusion and delay. I was back in oslo after more than 12 hours. I was told on the train the station will give a full refund. At the station the story changed and nsb claimed no responsibility at all and told me to contact JFord Tours. I also purchased a norwegian air ticket from bergen to oslo at the end of the tour so I was out about 2000NOK. Looking at jford tour's website, they give a number and an email address to report problems. since I am traveling aboard and I don't have an international phone I can't call (had asked nsb agent to call for me and was told they can't. Agents were rude and unprofessional. Their job was not to assist and help but to just get rid of us (the of us were traveling together). Anyhow the email address on the website is First nsb says this has nothing to do with them and can't help but the email address is directed to them.

As a visitor I am very disappointed with the extremely poor customer service I received. Norway is a beautiful country but all I can report back to my friends and family is an awful experience. I am out 2000 NOK, plus one day totally wasted. I filed a complaint and hopefully will get a refund, then I might come back to visit again. Else, this horror story will be on my blog.

My friend purchased her ticket the at visitor information center and was only given 75% refund. Instead of getting compensation for a day ruined, she was charged 25% for a penalty when we were the victims.

Torill said...

Dear Stella.

I sympathize with your frustration, having been in similar situations several times during my travels to different continents.

I was in doubt whether I should publish this comment or not. I am in no way connected to NSB, and your complaint is out of context here at my weblog. I was in doubt if I wanted my weblog to be an outlet of other people's frustration. I have enough of my own. When I still published it, it's because you are giving us all a cautionary tale about travelling. Hence I will use this response to point out some things to be prepared for when travelling, things which may reduce the frustration level enough that a trip feels more like an adventure and less like a failure.

First: NSB and Fjord Tours are not the same thing, so hoping for refunds from one when you bought the tickets from the other just doesn't work. It hasn't worked anywhere in the world for me so far. The lesson is: keep your tickets and receipts, and address the company you bought the tickets from. I am aware that the conductor said you could have a refund. The conductor probably didn't have all the information. It happens.

I checked out the contact information of Fjord tours. As far as I can see, it does not direct you to NSB. What I do find is however this message, which might explain why it was not easy to contact the company yesterday:

"NB! Due to the vulcanic ash from Island, there is about 20 minutes waiting time at our customer support phone. We are very sorry for the inconvenience."

Next, I checked some prices. With the nutshell ticket, your flight ticket from Bergen to Oslo probably was the economy kind, which means no refunds. It's just how it is. Been there, done that, again on several continents. Buying the cheap tickets is always a gamble, luckily it pays off often enough that it's worth doing it again.

Third: Your international phone doesn't work here? I pick my phones and companies specifically in order to have international coverage. It's one of the best things about cell-phones, to be connected in case of an emergency, just about everywhere. Also, if I remember correctly there's an internet café at the Oslo Central Station.

In my travels, I have learned that the only thing that actually works in cases like this, is really good travel insurance. That's why I pay my insurance with pleasure. They have bailed me out when I couldn't get on planes, sent me doctors when I have been sick, replaced stolen cameras and financed a new wardrobe when the luggage disappeared. They have rerouted me when death in the family has made it imperative that I get where I need to go, and negotiated with American hospitals when they wanted me to pay cash to check up on infections, not trusting that European travel insurance would actually work.

For me, the lesson from your unhappy experience in Norway is: Travel insurance - don't leave home without it.

(By the way – I need to find a Danish equivalent. Thanks for reminding me.)