Club Soda and Salt

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Myth bunked

Posted by clubsodaandsalt on August 15, 2009

I happened across this article on travel myths while looking at flights for a trip to Europe (well targeted, Bing). Most of the myths the author cites are, in fact, myth, and the debunking is well executed. However, the myth that serves as the jumping off point was irritating:

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Two travel professionals, my dinner companions in Coventry, England, had just told me that they hadn’t been to London in years. Just a two-hour train ride away from shopping, theater and royal pageantry, and they didn’t go every other weekend?
“It’s cheaper and easier to get on a plane to Spain out of Birmingham, to tell the truth,” one explained. “Way cheaper, really. So, London versus Costa Brava? Two hundred pounds versus 50? Rain, sun?” He held his hands up in the universal shifting-weight scale.
That was my first clue that the famous axiom about getting around Europe — that trains are best — is a fable from simpler times. I later verified the truth of this on a three-week family trek around Scandinavia. We rented a car, spent less (far less) than it would have cost us on trains, and had infinitely more flexibility to wander up and down little country lanes.
When I did a little more research, I confirmed that my friends were right after all. The advent of low-cost airlines has made air travel cheaper, quicker and more convenient than rail. For instance, a flight on Easyjet from London to Paris in September costs $108; passage through the Chunnel on the Eurostar is $195.
So many problems with this. First off, he was talking to people in the UK, which almost certainly has the worst trains in Western Europe.  When people think of excellent european trains, they think of the TGV or Deustche Bahn, *not* First Great Western and the other Tory-created disasters.

Second, the question of whether to fly or train is largely driven by the city pairs in question, as well as how much you value your time and comfort. The author brings up a London – Paris journey, and yes, Easyjet is cheaper, but you will have to get to Luton, deal with the disaster that airports have become, and then arrive half an hour outside of Paris. The more expensive Eurostar will take you from city center to city center with much less hassle. The author is confusing cheaper with better – you can only equate the two when the same service is being provided.

Sorry, I just had to stick up for the trains of Europe, especially as we try to get some SUPERTRAINS built stateside.


One Response to “Myth bunked”

  1. Jen said

    Is there a good map of train routes in Europe? Could you draw me one?

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