(ffm) If the biographies of the VGF employees were a collection of stories about Frankfurt, the marriage of Peter and Heike Wirth would be a love story about this city. The longest serving tram driver couple in Frankfurt met 39 years ago during dance lessons, has been married for 34 years and has now been riding trams for 31 years.
The professional life of Peter and Heike Wirth takes place between two termini between which the paths of the two cross several times a day depending on the route. Whenever Heike and Peter meet on the way, they throw each other a kiss - and look forward to the end of the day together. The duo, which seems so different at first glance, never gets bored at work. The job was far too eventful and varied for that. “We set up our duty rosters so that we work the same shift“, explains Heike Wirth, who started her job as a railway driver in Frankfurt in February 1988. Her husband Peter trained as an electrician after completing his military service, then drove a taxi for a while and finally followed his wife into the driver's cab of the VGF railways.
<x>”Even back when I was still driving a taxi, Heike passed my taxi stand with her tram several times a day”, says Peter Wirth, flashing his big grin. Frankfurt has changed radically since 1988. 30 years ago it had 625,000 inhabitants. Today, more than 125,000 more people live in the city. On weekdays, Mainhattan even swells to become a metropolis of millions. Of course, tram drivers also notice this: “The fact that so many people now live in Frankfurt also has an effect on traffic discipline. The streets are much fuller than before and we have to be extremely careful to get through the city accident-free“, says Heike Wirth. Above all, car and bicycle drivers who drive across traffic lights in red, people who look at their mobile phones instead of at the road, and ambulances roaring through the city with Martinshorn make the tram drivers feel uncomfortable.
High traffic volume requires a lot of concentration
With the city and its population, the VGF's route network has also grown considerably. On central sections of the route in the city centre, the trams now run every minute. In order to maintain a constant balance between punctuality, consideration for road traffic and customer friendliness, the greatest concentration is required. „Of course we wait as long as possible when we see that someone else is coming running and wants to get on. But at some point we have to close the doors and leave“, Heike Wirth asks all passengers for their understanding, who missed their train again by a few seconds. The experienced tram driver assures, however, that neither she nor her colleagues intentionally left a passenger at the stop.
„When I drove through Mainzer Landstraße or Hanauer Landstraße in the late 80s, there were many industrial companies there. Today there are modern apartment blocks everywhere, says Wirth. The man who younger VGF passengers in particular know as the Bahnbabo is an impressive figure. With his mirrored aviator sunglasses, his dumbbell-strengthened upper arms and his rasp-short hair, Wirth has been the undisputed public favourite among Frankfurt's tram drivers for several years. The fitness fanatic has been doing strength training for over 30 years and mixes smoothies and protein shakes with his wife after work. But strength is not everything for Peter Wirth - to demonstrate his suppleness, he performs a splits impromptu - and then emphasizes that a strong man solves his problems not with muscle power, but with brains.
Well, Wirth regularly talks about the on-board microphone with his passengers, wishes them a nice day despite or because of the weather, points out detours or is happy with them that his wife is driving past him again. This communicative and relaxed manner is well received by customers - in the social media Peter Wirth is a real star who is regularly asked for selfies. “This kind of contact maintenance is simply fun for me. Even then, when the driver's cab wasn't separated from the rest of the car by a door, I enjoyed talking to my passengers - even if that's actually forbidden“, says Peter Wirth and turns on his Bahnbabo grin.
The world seen - in love with Frankfurt
„I prefer to ride the Line 11 from Fechenheim to Höchst - that's real life“, he says about the line where his abilities as a conflict mediator have been in demand from time to time. „If someone in the tram doesn't behave or refuses to take his feet off the seat, I'll show him my balancing act. After that I have his respect because he notices that I am a stable guy... Heike Wirth also has nothing against a chat with her passengers - but she takes it easier in the driver's cab than her husband. “My favourite lines are the 15 or the 18 - preferably on Sundays when it's nice and quiet“, she says. After work Heike Wirth likes to finish off the evening with a load of wool bob from which she, as her husband credibly assures us, makes true knitting works of art.
As different as the Wirths may seem at first glance - privately they have been living on the same line for over three decades: Together the duo have travelled almost the entire world - but the two of them, who also live in the heart of the Main metropolis, simply don't get enough of Frankfurt. With the exception of a one-year guest performance in Offenbach in 1992, the Wirths have lived in Frankfurt since their youth. And one thing is certain: Heike and Peter Wirth will continue to sit in the driver's cab of their trams for the VGF until their retirement, in order to bring their passengers punctually and safely to their destination and throw themselves a kiss.
On Sunday, March 31st, Peter Wirth will be on TV from 10.15 p.m. at the Hessenquiz.