Advantages Relaxing, simple, comparatively cheap.
Disadvantages Occasional delays, buffet still not exactly brilliant.
|Frequency of trains|
|Reliability of trains|
|Speed of trains|
|Safety of trains|
|How extensive is their Rail Network?|
|How well does it cater for disabled people?|
Why fly to London?Ok, well maybe you're located in Scotland and need to visit England for work on a regular basis. Most business peeps here in Edinburgh can regularly be seen dragging their mini trolleys and their laptops out to the airport - convinced that the one and a bit hour flight down to London town is going to save them time, money and hassle. Oh - and make them look prestigious too. As if!
I have been a frequent flyer on the Edinburgh - London route for five years now, and have tried BA, British Midland, Easyjet and Go. All of them are ok, but none of them are or ever will be perfect.Now it is time to confess my weakness - lately I have become a bit nervous of flying. My fear began way before 11 September last year, but let's face it - recent events haven't exactly inspired confidence in airline safety. So when it came to booking my recent travel arrangements down to London for a meeting - I booked the train.
THE TRAIN?????But isn't it horrible, unreliable, laughably expensive, slow, smelly, and with a level of catering that makes the works canteen look like The Ivy?
Ummm - maybe, I thought, but at least I don't risk plummeting to certain death if it all goes pear shaped. Tell me I'm not the only one around here having similar, irrational thoughts!My first surprise was the price - my return ticket to London from Edinburgh cost £37.50, booked three weeks in advance. That makes the entire journey a simialar price to the hilariously named 'Stansted Express' that I usually rely upon to whisk me into town when I arrive in Stansted. And by the way - Stansted is as far from London as Edinburgh is from Glasgow. Figure that into your travel time next time you fly!
Like most travel tickets, the price will vary dramatically depending on when you want to travel, and how far in advance you can book. Avoid Fridays if at all possible! The staff at Edinburgh are really good at finding you the best deal available - be aware, though, that the cheaper tickets are generally inflexible. This means that if you are early or late for your train, then you can't just take your ticket onto another service.
Now for the journey!My seats had been reserved for me both ways, so there was no need to turn up early to ensure I got a seat. So I only had to factor in some goodie buying time - Edinburgh Waverley has WH Smith, Boots, Costa etc. I loaded up with mags and snacks, and clambered on board.
My seat was 'facing' which meant I was looking forwards as we travelled, and I was pretty comfy straight away. The train was spotlessly clean, for a start. My table-mates were friendly and civilised, and there was no smell of smoke or anything grim like that. There is also a designated 'quiet coach' where mobiles and walkmans (walkmen?) are banned - very relaxing (though often ignored - quite a challenge for your assertiveness skills!)I then spent the next four and a half hours ignoring the book I had brought and gazing hypnotised out of the window as the beautiful scenery rolled past me to the sound of the rails rattling away rythmically underneath the carriage. WOW. How much more relaxing is this than clinging to my seat rests for dear life during turbulence??? No contest. As I admired Englands cathedrals from the comfort of my seat I felt as if I was going on holiday.
I only visited the buffet car once and that was for a cup of tea. GNER now proudly claim to offer a range of 'fresh gourmet sandwiches' - you'll forgive me if I bring my own from M&S, as even I wouldn't go that far in the name of research! The overwhelming impression I got though, was that GNER are desperately trying to offer a serious alternative to flying - and upgrading standards generally, including their food and drink options. The trolley that comes round is slightly overpriced, but always staffed by friendly people.By the time we got down past York, the train was much less busy, and I was able to grab a double seat of my own to stretch out on. I nearly fell asleep - and then, bada bing! We were pulling into King's Cross station, the real life jumping off spot for all mini wizards and witches. There were only muggles in evidence when I arrived, but again, I was impressed with the range of shops and services the station had to offer. Without needing to go outside (or through arrivals!) I tootled down the escalator into the underground - and was on the way to my hotel in the time it would have taken me to buy a train ticket at bloody Stansted.
HURRAH!!I really can't recommend the train enough for your journey to the south of England - or vice versa. Four and a half hours flew by, and I arrived refreshed, relaxed and with no anxiety. For those of you who still need convincing, here is a handy comparison:
Bus from my house to Princes Street - 15 min
Time spent getting to London by air:
Airport bus out to airport - 30 minCheck in time - one hour
Flight time - one and a half hours (to include inevitable delays)Time faffing through airport onto rail platform - 15 min
Waiting time on platform - 15 minTrain into London - 45 min.
OK, so now we're in the centre of town. Door to door it took four and a half hours (on a good day, with no major delays) and I'm knackered, stressed, and feel as if I'm ready for a nice lie down.Compare that to:
Time spent getting to London via rail:Bus up to Princes street - 15 min
Train journey - four and a half hours.And that's it - I've been sitting chilling out the whole way and I feel great.
There were no incidents involving chocolate frogs on my journey - but who knows? Next time I may be whisked to another dimension!
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Pages: 48, Edition: 1st, Paperback, Passmore Edwards Museum
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