Friday, February 20, 2015

Trains in Spain: Precision Tardiness

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I teach English in a little town not far outside Madrid. It's just three stations away from the Principe Pio commuter train station, which is near the city center. The trip takes less than 20 minutes and the business where the classes are held is about a five minute walk from my arrival station.

Because these classes start at 8:30am on Monday and 8am on Wednesdays and Fridays, I was very happy to learn there are weekday commuter trains originating at Principe Pio that are scheduled to depart every 30 minutes, at 3 minutes and 36 minutes after the hour. Perfect timing for me!

Well, I have been taking these trains for around six months now and have truly been impressed at their fidelity to the times they leave the station. The scheduled departure times appearing on the platform sign next to the waiting trains are always 7:33 and 8:03 and the times appearing on the clocks inside the trains when they head out are 7:36 and 8:06 – precisely 3 minutes late. I have checked and the platform clocks and train clocks seem perfectly synched, so it's not a matter of a discrepancy between clocks. The trains simply leave late – and rather precisely at that.

Now, nobody's perfect. Once or twice the trains have left at 7:34 and 8:07.

Still, I for one believe RENFE (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles—National Network of Spanish Railways) can take pride in the fact that at least these particular trains of theirs pretty consistently miss the mark so exactly.

Update 27 February, 2015: OMG, for the first time since I've been taking these trains, this morning's left on time!

Update 13 March, 2015: Today I saw something different. I always sit in the first wagon and this morning at 7:33 the engineer ran into the car, dashed into the cab, immediately started the engine and took off -- pretty much on time: the on-board clock switched to 7:34 as we took off. Usually the engineers are already in the cab and even when they have not been, I have never seen any enter in a rush. 

Update 14 May, 2015; Yesterday the train left two minutes early! Although this is the first time I've seen this occur on this particular train, I have on occasion experienced early departures on other trains in various parts of Spain. And on one occasion I arrived on a platform a few minutes before the scheduled departure time only to find the train had already left.


Ian Cole said...

We would absolutely love to feature some of your trains on The Worldwide Railfan Project Facebook Page! We have a goal of having train pictures from every country in the world on there, and spain would be a new country for us!

Carloz Newsvine said...

I'll snap a photo of one of these tardy trains for you next week.