In a recent incident, a train conductor was attacked by a family of three without tickets. “Not an isolated case,” says a former train attendant in an interview with FOCUS online and reports on shocking incidents.
Jessica Friedrich (name changed by the editor) worked for seven years as a conductor on the railways in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. Due to the stresses of her day-to-day work, she resigned and changed industry. In an interview, the 44-year-old tells of the traumatic situations she experienced with passengers.
FOCUS online: You were employed in retail when you decided to work as a conductor. How did that happen?
Friedrich: Even as a child, I was fascinated by the conductor’s job. For me, this has always been a person who is treated with a lot of respect and enjoys a special reputation. I wanted to continue to have a lot to do with people, which is why I decided to do retraining.
Did you feel that respect that fascinated you as a child? Recently, a conductor was severely physically attacked by a family because they couldn’t show their tickets. Does this happen often?
Friedrich: This is definitely not an isolated case. In this job you have to deal with attacks on a regular basis. A man who was on drugs attacked me and a passenger. But I was lucky because DB security was there and intervened quickly. Another example: A boy didn’t have a ticket, the mother then attacked me at the terminal station because I had written down her son and he had to pay 60 euros. Similar incidents happen almost every day.
Were there situations that did not end so lightly for you?
Friedrich: I’ll tell you about my worst experience. A man with a knife stood in front of me and said ‘I’ll kill you’. He didn’t have a ticket, didn’t want to show me his papers and didn’t want to get off. I’ve never seen anyone tremble with anger like this man. All around the other passengers sat, looked away and did not react at all. If only one passenger had responded, several would have helped. And the man would then have noticed that the majority is on my side.
What happened then?
Friedrich: The man attacked me. I was just able to save myself in the driver’s cab. We immediately called the police. We waited. But the police didn’t come for 40 minutes. We should then continue with this passenger without big words. Luckily, another passenger who had slept with headphones asked what was going on here. When I told him he grabbed the man by the neck and pushed him outside.
How did that make you feel?
Friedrich: I’ve never been so scared in my whole life. And that’s bad, it’s about my work. That the other people didn’t help makes me angry. I have a family at home and when you’re on the train at night hoping you’ll get home safely, that’s really sad. I’m at work and not at war.
How does Deutsche Bahn itself deal with such incidents?
Friedrich: When something like that happened, there was a bouquet of flowers, a card, a box of chocolates and an apology. A therapist has also been assigned. But nothing changed after that.
What would you have specifically wished for?
Friedrich: Deutsche Bahn should do more to ensure employee safety. In general, there is a requirement that trains should be double manned from 7 p.m., especially on weekends. But there is a lack of staff. The rosters were approved with a single cast. Since the corona pandemic, it has no longer been the case that the trains are manned twice. We, especially many women, were always alone, especially at night on the S-Bahn. You’re at the mercy of a pack. The people from DB Security are also being used incorrectly. They are often at train stations, where the federal police are also on site, instead of on the trains, where they are urgently needed.
You were with Deutsche Bahn for seven years and then quit. How did that happen?
Friedrich: Working for the railway made me sick. I struggled with burnout and depression. There were also private matters, my mother has cancer. I didn’t want to get out of the car and get on the train in the morning. We had to enforce the wearing of masks. The nine-euro ticket was pure horror for us, from then on it went even further downhill. The trains were packed, and many had to cancel. We train attendants were the target of everyone and everything. We all pushed the limit. Nobody was interested in my problems. Everyone needs appreciation in their job, I missed that here. I just had to function.
In the end I just walked through the wagons without checking because I was just too scared. Even older conductors, who are otherwise reliable, are now doing this. The people who become aggressive on the trains cannot be calmed down, they want to escalate.
You are now working for a few days in a new job, in a completely different industry. How are you doing in your new job?
Frederick: I’m fine. Here I can work and take care of my health. I work in the office in the chemical industry. I am not constantly tense and plagued by feelings of anxiety.
If you notice in yourself or in your environment that someone could be suffering from depression or another psychological emergency, you can contact various counseling centers: