Engine drivers and train attendants fight a thousand adversities every day to ensure that the trains run as punctually as possible. With moderate success, something is always. A report from the platform front. By Jan Boris Wintzenburg

Cologne Central Station. “I’m a hunter of seconds,” says Abdelhafid Tahri, walking across the platform between platforms 4 and 5. “There used to be a smoking area here,” he explains, pointing to the free area in front of the stairs. “It blocked the way the passengers walked, so we moved it. A backlog can quickly cost a few seconds.” Now he is heading for the “supervision booth”. Daniela Pelger serves as “local supervisor”. The area in front of it has recently been hatched with white lines. “Then there are fewer people and luggage,” says Tahri. That also takes a second or two, because Pelger is faster at the edge of the platform and can give the departure signal.