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The opposite of punctuality is BVG: When Berliners are late Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Current Events, Travel

Delays and Cancellations – Travelling with public transportation in Berlin can be a pain in the neck

With an area of nearly 900 square kilometers, Berlin is the largest city in Germany. Also counted by its inhabitants the capital is the most crowded area in Germany. About 3.4 million people track through the streets every day zu Fuß (by foot), mit dem Fahrrad (by bicycle), mit dem Auto (by car), and of course mit öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln (by public transportation).

Since distances are usually long, streets jammed with cars, and parking spaces hard to find, many people travel mit Bussen (by busses), Straßenbahnen (trams), der U-Bahn (the subway), and der S-Bahn (city trains).

Anyway, travelling around Berlin’s city and its suburb is not always that trouble-free as most passengers wish. Very often, trains are delayed or cancelled and people are forced to spend much more time at stations than actually intended.


Why can public transportation be interrupted at all?

The ultimate means of transportation that take you quickly to all the distant places to be are the U-Bahn (the German subway) and S-Bahn (commuter trains). Unfortunately, technical maintenance of Berlin’s trains and railroad tracks has long been deficient, which now takes vengeance apparently every other day by resulting in delays and even cancellations of trains.

What causes any of these interruptions is usually not expounded precisely. Over loudspeakers you are only informed that there are either Signalstörungen (route signaling distortions), Stellwerkstörungen (signal tower distortions), Weichenstörungen (points failures) or simply kaputte Züge (broken trains).

Only this week I underwent a delay because of a signal tower distortion, a cancellation because of “problems in rail traffic” (direct quote!), and a swapping of trains with no explanation at all.


How long is one’s waiting tested?

Although delays are always annoying they are nevertheless only just acceptable as the staff of the BVG does everything conceivable that you are taken to your workplace or home as soon as possible. However, whenever you visit Berlin and take die Öffentlichen (coll. “the publics”; short for public transportation) be prepared to experience any kinds of disruptions.


Is BVG a swearword?

No, BVG is not a swearword. It is the abbreviation of Berliner Verkehrs-AktienGesellschaft (BVG), which was founded on 10 December 1928. Back then Berlin hadn’t been a unified congregation and there were several independent transport services, which had different economic interests. In order to accommodate all those interests the governing body BVG was brought into being.

In 1938, the BVG became an owner-operated municipal enterprise and was renamed Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. Strangely, the abbreviation remained the same – probably, to avoid confusion with the football club of Dortmund (BVB).

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Maegen Fariss:

    it’s good to have a post from you, Sandra. Thought you’d died 😉
    And public transit pretty much works the same way here where I live–the trains are always late! 🙂

    • Sandra:

      @Maegen Fariss Hey Maegen,

      I’m still very alive and kicking! 😉 I really feel bad for having not found so much time lately to blog more often but I vow to clean up my act … 🙂

  2. EP:

    Do you know what some Berliners say BVG stands for? Bin vorsichtshalber gelaufen (went by foot just to play it safe).

    • Sandra:

      @EP Lol, I’ve never heard that before but it makes sense 😉