Thursday, 1 October 2009

Train travel - one last pleasure before the pain!

Looking forward to this afternoon - Eurostar have very kindly upgraded me and my girlfriend for the trip to Paris, which means she at least can sip champagne as we speed under the sea...
Have to say, though, I find train travel a real pleasure regardless of class of travel. It's been one of the easiest changes to make in lifestyle as I've tried to go greener; only when you stop flying do you realise quite how miserable it was in the first place, and how much it detracts from your authentic experience of a place to arrive in the cultural sterility of an airport! So much more real to travel through a landscape, seeing it change around you, than to parachute into greyness.

I also have a bit of a beef both with those who say it's expensive and those who say it takes too long, which are the most obvious arguments against train travel.

Money-wise there are a couple of factors. First up, if you book in advance, train travel is dead reasonable. Eurostar from £59 return all in (so no credit card or carry on bag fees, or transfers to and from city centres - no bl**dy Stansted 'Express'!), and the overnight from Barcelona cost 50-odd euros first class!Then there's the fact that we are simply not paying the true cost of flying at the moment - in many countries, airline fuel is subsidised while train is not. What you have to remember is that flying is both fundamentally unnecessary (particularly domestic and short-haul European) AND carbon intensive. Not exactly a winning combination in the present day. Can't believe they are trying to get away with a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050. Ridiculous.

Especially when you consider the time thing properly. Now, I'm leaving work at 2pm to go to Barcelona. I'll go to St Pancras, do a bit more work on the way to Paris, have dinner, get on the train and wake up in Barca at 7am after a lovely long sleep. Nice.

Or I could travel an hour out of town to get to an airport, check in by 4pm, get on a flight for 5pm, arrive at Barca airport by 9pm (with time difference), and get into actual real-life Barcelona after getting bags and so on for about 10.30pm if I'm really lucky, absolutely knackered and having been unable to do anything useful since 2pm. I generally don't sleep well after flying, so I'll still feel shoddy the next day, and I'll have generated 10 times more carbon emissions.

But yes, green living is all about sacrifices...

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