Letting the train take the strain

Comment to me by a member of the booking hall staff at a central European railway ticket office the other day:

“It would be cheaper for you to fly, you know.”

I have to confess, I was a bit taken aback. You don’t normally expect staff from one company to recommend the products of a competitor, but, more importantly, what hope have we of getting people out of ‘planes and onto high-speed rail if this is the attitude of the railway’s own staff?

For me, it’s not an option. My company has a ‘green’ travel policy and we go by train wherever possible, including Europe. It may take slightly longer (although this is not always as clear cut as some make out, when you consider the delays getting through airport check-in and baggage handling fiascos), but we use the time productively for work-based reading and just plain, old fashioned thinking. We also create far less CO2 into the bargain.

Planning these journeys is made much easier by a website that I’ve used for years and can wholeheartedly recommend: Mark Smith’s The Man in Seat Sixty-One. The site details what is required to travel, without flying, from the UK to any one of forty-odd European countries and many others further field.


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2 Responses to “Letting the train take the strain”

  1. Martin Waller Says:

    Ah… if we really want to get people using the trains then we simply have to make the service better. I live in Ipswich and if I want to go to London during the week I have to:

    a) Get up really early to ensure that I get parking at the station because by 7:30 it’s all gone.
    b) Pay £35+ for a return ticket for a one hour journey there and a one hour journey back.
    c) Face the fact that I’ll be standing up for one, if not both, parts of the journey.

    I have to say that travelling by train is a real pleasure…

    Also, we had some friends over from Germany last year and they wanted to travel from Ipswich to Holyhead to catch the ferry to Ireland and the price to go by rail was silly. It blew the cost of getting from Germany to England out of the water. It was really embarrassing to tell them it was going to cost so much. The cost really has to come down.


  2. pdanderson Says:

    I agree Martin – costs have to come down. One thing worth noting is how much poorer the rail service is in the UK when comparing to the rest of EU. We have only one high-speed line in the UK from the Chunnel to London. It’s time we built one heading north (via Ipswich maybe?)

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