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This FAQ aims at answering some questions that ESN members or general public often ask the Care Team. We, the Care Team, maintain it and hope that it will be useful to you. Please note that we try not to repeat here information that you already can find on the page about ESN's communication after the ESNtrain cancellation. If you have any question that you would like to have answered on this page, feel free to send us email.
5.What was the relation between ESN and platform GmbH?
6.Is ESN contractually linked to the ESNtrain?
7.How was ESN involved in the management of the ESNtrain project?
8.What was the role of the ESN president 2008-2009 as member of the ESNtrain patronage committee?
9.What is ESN doing for the ESNtrain participants waiting for their money to be reimbursed?
10.What is the current status of the mediation?
11.Why did we hear so little about the mediation?
12.What was the outcome of the mediation?
13.What is Bernhard Jäggle doing at the moment?
14.Is ESN planning to sue platform GmbH?
15.Is ESN planning to help ESNtrain participants suing platform GmbH?
16.Is ESN encouraging platform GmbH to declare bankruptcy?
17.Did the ESNtrain exist at all?
ESNtrain is a project organized by a Swiss private company called platform GmbH. Sole owner of platform GmbH is Bernhard Jäggle (on 28.06.2009), who initiated the ESNtrain project. The goal of the ESN train was to provide to thousands of people across Europe a communication platform. They would meet new people on the train, discover cities, their inhabitants, their customs and cultures. During the night, travellers would sleep on the train while it would be travelling from one city to the next. During the days when the ESNtrain would stop in various cities, additional visitors could board the train and learn more about the ESNtrain and its journey. The ESNtrain would have travelled during 25 days in 18 countries.
The Austrian Railway Company ÖBB was working with platform GmbH. As far as ESN knows, its role was to provide the railway logistics (wagons, authorizations, locomotives, drivers, etc.), delegating some of these tasks to other European railway companies and negotiating price of these services with them.
Erasmus Student Network shared the vision and ideals of ESNtrain project - bringing people from all over the world together and providing them opportunities for personal growth and learning through cultural exchange. Moreover, in 2009, ESN is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As the ESNtrain embraced similar values and ideals as ESN, the project was therefore included among the projects of the Happy Birthday! ESN.
Anybody could book a trip on the ESNtrain, student or not, member of an ESN section or not. Promotion of the project was mostly geared towards students. A certain amount of places was reserved for members of ESN sections as a reward for ESN promoting the ESNtrain.
Erasmus Student Network let the ESNtrain project use the name ESN in its title. ESN provided platform GmbH the access to human resources in its network. This meant in practical terms that the representatives of ESNtrain project were given a time during ESN's international events (such as AGM or Regional Platforms) to present the ESNtrain and promote it among ESN members. At the same time, the ESN sections were encouraged to organise events along the ESNtrain route for the participants of the ESNtrain. Additionally, ESN promoted the ESNtrain project among its partners and other contacts.
ESN was granted patronages for its Happy Birthday! ESN celebrations from several institutions and organisations - such as Commissioner FigeÄ¾, Committee of the Regions, Council of Europe etc. (for the whole list, see www.esn.org). The patronages were not connected to any of the projects of Happy Birthday specifically - they concerned the general celebrations of 20 years of the existence of ESN. ESN never financially or materially contributed to the organization of the ESNtrain.
In return, platform gave ESN members an opportunity of pre-registration for the ESNtrain. Each section was granted 2 places in the ESNtrain. Also, it was to carry ESN name throughout Europe and make ESN activities and purpose known to a wider audience through the press coverage of the ESNtrain arrival. The ESNtrain was to be a promotion vehicle for the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of ESN. Finally, the presence of the ESNtrain in a city promised to further enrich the life of ESN sections and of their exchange students along the ESNtrain route.
No. ESN International wishes to clarify that it is neither financially nor legally linked to platform GmbH. Also, there have never been any contracts or negotiations between ESN International and the Austrian railway company ÖBB, concerning this train. As far as ESN knows, agreements were established between the platform GmbH and the ÖBB. However, ESN wants to state clearly that it gave support to ESNtrain by providing it with the help of its network of local sections. The sections situated at the various stops of the train put a lot of effort into organising activities for the train’s participants.
Since the ESNtrain project was not organized by ESN or any of its sections, ESN (in the form of its statutory bodies such as its international board (IB), its council of national representatives (CNR) or its general assembly (AGM)) did not oversee the management of the ESNtrain project, like it would do for its own large projects such as an AGM or the "20 years of Erasmus". This means that ESN (in the form of the aforementioned bodies) was never informed in detail about the current situation of the project (financing, logistics, volunteer recruiting, etc.). Project management was the sole responsibility of platform GmbH.
The patronage letter of Matthias Fenner expresses the moral support of himself in the name of ESN towards the externally organised project, its ideas and visions. He wishes the project as much success as possible. The letter and patronage did not constitute any obligations and binding relationship between the ESNtrain and Erasmus Student Network. In order to read the letter of support, click here.
First of all, ESN has no contractual obligation towards the ESNtrain participants as during the registration, the ESNtrain participants agreed on the general terms with the platform GmbH.
Having said this, ESN deeply regrets the cancellation of the project and wishes to help the participants - people who looked forward to discovering parts of our continent and who believed in the values of cultural exchange and European diversity. Members of ESN sections that were to organise events along the route helped stranded participants after the cancellation. Some of them carried on with the planned events under the theme ESNyway, such as sections in Vienna, Prague, Berlin or Hamburg.
Immediately after the cancellation, the Care Team was established in order to support the ESN sections in their efforts to cope with possible negative effects of the cancellation, to answer participants' inquiries about ESN's role in the ESNtrain project and about whom to contact to get reimbursed.
In order to ease the flow of information among the parties involved in the ESNtrain project (platform GmbH, ÖBB, participants' representatives and ESN) and hopefully to accelerate the reimbursement of the participants, ESN has taken the initiative to set up a mediation between the aforementioned parties.
Now that the mediation is over and observing the latest developments of the dealings between platform GmbH and OeBB (see the news releases on esntrain.org), ESN sees letting platform GmbH act on its own as the best way to facilitate the reimbursement. At the same time, in order to justify its trust in platform GmbH and in order to draw organizational learnings from the ESNtrain project cancellation, ESN asks platform GmbH to show ESN its books and contracts.
The mediation took place on 10 October 2009 in Vienna. The mediation was attended by representatives of the Erasmus Student Network, ESNtrain participants and of platform GmbH. During the day, a facultative meeting with ÖBB was hold.
Vienna was chosen by the mediator as the meeting place in order to make the meeting with representatives of ÖBB possible as their headquarters are based there.
ESN was represented by:
For more information, see below.
By definition, the mediation process stays impartial, confidential and voluntary all the time. In this way, the participants feel more comfortable and less pressured towards open discussion, which enables them to reach the solutions. Any communication towards the general public about the mediation is to be decided and agreed upon by all the participants of the mediation after the physical meeting took place.
The mediation consisted of two parts:
The participants to the first part agreed on the talks remaining confidential. The final communiqué - agreed upon by all mediation participants - was published on 2 November 2009.
Official statement regarding the outcome of the ESNtrain mediation
The mediation on the ESNtrain case took place in Vienna on 10 October 2009. The following persons were present:
The mediation lasted for about 7 hours, from 10.00 to 12.30 and from 15.00 to 19.30. During lunchtime, between 12.45 and 14.30 a facultative meeting with Mr. Narrenhofer from ÖBB took place in his office, the content of which is entirely of public domain.
The parties have commonly agreed on this present statement.
Despite the development of some options, no solution could be found in the end that would sufficiently satisfy all parties to resolve the issue or that would point out directions to continue the mediation process. Thus, the mediation will not continue. The parties agreed preliminarily on keeping confidentiality over the discussion, in order to facilitate a fruitful process which could have produced a quick and satisfactory solution for every party, without resorting to legal actions. However, since the mediation failed to achieve such purpose, the participants felt the need to discuss with ESN and with the mediators whether to keep or to reconsider the preliminary confidentiality, but eventually the parties did not agree on waiving it.
The second talk was not confidential. Johann Narrenhofer, manager of the Erlebnisbahn division of the ÖBB and responsible for overseeing the ESNtrain project on the ÖBB side, described us how he sees the events that led ÖBB to cancel the ESNtrain. When ESN asked him to present us with evidence supporting his claims (such as a contract and email correspondance with platform), he declined our request, just like platform GmbH does since April 2009.
Thus, more than 6 months after the cancellation of the ESNtrain, ESN lies in the uncomfortable position of still having no evidence in its possession on how the project came to a halt.
Since the cancellation of the ESNtrain and at least up to today (07.07.2009), the Care Team has been in regular contact with the owner of platform GmbH and main organiser of the ESNtrain, Bernhard Jäggle.
During this time, platform GmbH informed the Care Team of its efforts in collecting money they had prepaid to suppliers. Once this money is recollected, platform GmbH is to proceed with the reimbursements to the participants.
For the ESNtrain project to start, some financial guarantees had been paid, in order to rent wagons, book tracks and bring the train together. These deposits have to be refunded to platform GmbH first. Recollecting this money, however, takes effort and time. Platform GmbH opted to do this work silently, believing that the reimbursement process would be faster if the involved actors (such as suppliers) are not pressured by public scrutiny.
Up to the mediation round in Vienna on October 10, 2009, platform GmbH provided the Care Team with some information, on the condition of confidentiality. Based on that information, we believe that platform GmbH was all the time between cancellation and mediation working in line with in the interest of the ESNtrain participants.
On November 6, 2009, platform GmbH sent an email to ESNtrain participants updating them with the current state of their dealings with OeBB. Since then, the Care Team receives no other information from platform GmbH about its efforts than the general public.
ESN believes that there was a better option than legal steps - the mediation - which is far less costly than trials and would not thus lower the amount of money that belongs to participants. In our eyes, the mediation brought some better understanding between the parties. It apparently did not go as far as resulting in a concrete agreement on a speedy reimbursement of the participants.
At the moment (27.11.2009), ESN has no plan to sue platform, neither on the behalf of the participants nor on its own behalf. We however encourage ESNtrain participants to help each other and to consult with ESN about ways to accelerate the reimbursement of their money.
ESN's main goal with respect to the ESNtrain project is to see the participants having their money reimbursed in the shortest time. ESN does not see so far (15.11.2009) how participants suing platform GmbH would accelerate or increase the chances of a reimbursement. Therefore, ESN is not planning to help anybody suing platform GmbH, or to take this step on its own behalf.
Platform GmbH is a private company. Only its owner can decide if and when to declare bankruptcy. ESN has no way of influencing that decision.
It would however halt the efforts of Platform GmbH in collecting the ESNtrain participants' money. A bankruptcy would be in the interest of Platform GmbH's suppliers that already received a prepayment and have not yet reimbursed it. It would be detrimental to the Platform GmbH's customers (the participants), who would see a smaller part of their money being reimbursed.
Moreover, as far as we know, each of the ESNtrain participants would need to officially take part in the bankruptcy process, in order to get reimbursed. Some would certainly do, some would certainly not bother, others would miss the deadline, which would result in the unfair situation of some participants receiving money and others not.
Yes, the Care Team knows participants and ESNtrain team members who were in Bratislava and Vienna between March 27th and 30th, and who saw the train or worked on it. The existence of the ESNtrain could be proved by pictures taken by these people (see below). The ESNtrain was ready to depart before being cancelled.
Disclaimer: All pictures on this page are copyrighted by Thomas Strauss. They may not be linked to, reprinted or copied for distribution without the explicit consent of a member of the Care Team.
Explain to this person that the organizer of the ESNtrain is neither your section, nor your national board, nor ESN international. Remind them that they booked a trip with platform GmbH, a private company that has no financial nor contractual link with ESN (see question 1). Suggest them to contact platform GmbH to claim their reimbursement.
If your section receives such an inquiry through a letter from a lawyer, please notify the Care Team, so we keep a good overview. Moreover, feel free to contact the Care Team at any time to get advice on how to handle ESNtrain's participants claims.
The Care Team has limited resources to monitor all articles or TV reportages concerning ESNtrain. However, it is part of the Care Team communication strategy to clarify facts about the ESN and ESNtrain to the general public. Thus, if such an article or reportage is discovered, the Care Team contacts the author to give the ESN point of view and clarify wrong statements. Often, the effect of such a correction is however limited: by the time of the intervention, the news has already been published or aired on TV.
As a creditor of platform GmbH, you can claim your debt by sending a recorded letter to platform GmbH, Neuhofstrasse 30, 8708 Maennedorf, Switzerland. This is a purely official step. If you have already given your bank account data on the formular available for that purpose on esntrain.org, the letter would bring nothing practical.
Also, you can claim damages which you have suffered because of the short-term cancellation of the ESNtrain. Such damages would be for example non-refundable plane tickets that led you to the start of your planned ESNtrain journey or temporary accomodation in the city you were stranded in. To claim compensation for these damages, send a recorded letter to platform GmbH before March 27th, 2010. After that date, according to Swiss law (DE, FR, IT), your right to claim for damage compensation expires. Your letter should include proofs of your claim (for example train tickets with a price on them, receipts, etc.).
When you send a recorded letter to platform GmbH, make sure that you mention your postal address. This must be an address that remains valid over time. If you happen to change address, then write a new recorded letter. As an alternative and if you are a very mobile person, you can mention the address of your parents or of a geographically stable friend. In all cases, make sure that any correspondance sent to this address can be reliably delivered to it.
After the day the company declares bankruptcy, you have one to two months (depending on the particular process) to claim the debt that platform GmbH has toward you by sending a recorded letter to ist local bankruptcy office. Should you miss that deadline, you would lose your right of getting a share of the remaining wealth of the bankrupting company.
Then, a bankruptcy administrator (a local government employee) will assess the remaining wealth of the company and distribute it among the creditors.
The whole issue of the cancellation is very complex and still subject to investigation. To the knowledge of ESN, Platform GmbH and ÖBB disagreed about the modalities of payment, which led ÖBB to call off the project. ESN was not responsible for the financial management of ESNtrain.
No. ESN has no knowledge of such a project being planned for near future (as of 27th November 2009), neither intends to conduct such a project on its own.
Since ESN has always supported the values and ideas behind the ESNtrain, ESN has proposed to facilitate mediation for the parties concerned in order to contribute to the solution of the current situation and allow everyone a space for clear and direct communication.
Now that the mediation is over, ESN - as a young, fast expanding European-wide organization - wants to learn from the disappointment of the project cancellation, and grow from it.
Trying to understand what happened was also one of the reasons behind our requests for opening books and contracts, both to the OeBB during the mediation on October 10th and platform GmbH since April 2009. Both companies so far declined our requests.
The Care Team has given itself as a mission for the coming months to analyze why the ESNtrain failed to travel throughout Europe and what ESN - its international board as well as its sections - can do in the future to better manage large projects. We want to present a report on our findings in April 2010 at the AGM in Istanbul.