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German train-delay scarf set to fetch up to €4,000 on eBay

A scarf knitted by a German woman to document her frustrations with frequent train delays is set to fetch close to €4,000 (£3,567) on eBay as the country’s biggest railway company announces its plans for a punctuality tsar to help improve its on-time arrivals.

The “rail delay scarf” first achieved fame when journalist Sara Weber posted a photo on Twitter earlier this month. Her mother, a commuter in the Munich area, knitted two lines each day in 2018 to signify how long she was delayed, she explained.

The scarf is colour-coded: grey wool meant her delay had been less than five minutes; pink signified delays of between five and 30 minutes while red meant she was delayed more than 30 minutes or had been delayed both ways.

The scarf in full.

The scarf in full. Photograph: @sara__weber

“In the spring, everything was OK. Lots of grey and pink,” Weber wrote. “Then for a while it was all red: rail replacement traffic throughout the summer.”

The scarf, approximately 1.5 metres long, signified many Germans’ frustrations with train delays, despite their country’s reputation abroad as efficient and punctual.

After it went viral on social media, Weber and her mother decided to auction the scarf off for charity; as of Monday morning, bidding for the scarf had reached more than €3.600, with nearly 150 bids.

The continuing delays have led Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, to appoint Ronald Pofalla, DB’s head of infrastructure and a former chief of staff in the German chancellery, as a crisis manager to improve its punctuality record.

Roughly a quarter of all trains and a third of long-distance trains were late in 2018 — a far cry from the days when 95% of German trains ran on time. For 2019, Deutsche Bahn has set an on-time goal of 80% of all trains and 76.5% of long-distance trains.

Pofalla and other top DB executives will present their improvement plans to Germany’s transport ministry on Tuesday.

Proceeds from the scarf will go to Bahnhofsmission, a charity helping vulnerable passengers or those facing travel emergencies. The auction ends Monday evening.

“We truly did not expect this,” Weber wrote on the eBay page. “My mother and I are overwhelmed by the positive feedback.”

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