Notes from the Green Party Candidate for South Norfolk, for General Election 2015. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Recent railway adventures

Here is how I went to Switzerland for a conference last weekend.

  1. First I rode my bicycle to Cambridge Station.
  2. Then I took a First Capital Connect train from Cambridge to King's Cross.
  3. Then I took two underground trains to get from Kings Cross to Waterloo.
  1. Then I took the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord.
  2. Then I walked from Gare du Nord to Gare de l'Est. Gare de l'Est is currently under reconstruction, but there was a waiting room.
  3. Then I boarded the night train heading for Zurich and Chur. The coach I was booked on didn't exist but they had reassigned me to an alternative one. It was, as requested, an all women couchette compartment.
  4. Next morning at 0450 I got off the train in Basle and crossed the border into Switzerland.
  5. At 5 a.m. the coffee shops opened so I had some breakfast.
  6. Then I caught a train to Luzern.
  7. At Luzern I was met by a representative of mine hosts and driven by road to Vitznau. This was a disappointment as I had hoped to complete the journey by way of the paddle steamer across the lake (but I think my hosts didn't appreciate that one might prefer to use the public transport method. Certainly I would have needed to wait perhaps an hour or two for the first boat I suspect).
On the way back I did the same thing in reverse. Total number of legs to the journey there and back, eighteen. Total journey time about 15 hours each way. But because most of it was at night, I actually got two complete extra days at my destination and lost very little usable time.

I suspect that a journey by air would have taken about 7 hours each way and cost about half as much. My original plan had been to cross the channel by sea rather than by Eurostar but by the time I came to book the travel agent claimed (somewhat implausibly, I thought) that there were no trains from Paris to Calais with available seats on the day I wanted to return. Next time I will make an effort to get it right. I don't much like the way the Eurostar tries to pretend it is an airline, creating just the very ambience one is trying to escape.

Eurostar (they tell me) is "ten times less polluting than flying". I suppose that means it emits about 10% as much CO2. They're trying to save further on the per passenger CO2 footprint now: well they could start by letting us wait in a normal building or on the platform instead of a horrible cramped air conditioned "departure lounge" with no windows and no natural light and most of the space taken up with silly airport shops and duty free outlets.

Yuk. Just let us travel in good old railway style: that would appeal much more to those of us who want to break free of the consumer society.
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