Trains overtaking f lights as preferred way of travelling through Europe
EXPLORING Europe by train has been a popular form of transport for more than a century and new high-speed rail developments have accelerated its growth in popularity.
Rail Europe, the international distributor of rail tickets and passes, reports that 60,000 Australasian passengers travelled by train through Europe during the past year (to August), a 33 per cent increase over the same period last year. Richard Leonard, manager for Rail Europe Australasia, says new high-speed tracks are regularly being laid and extended through Europe. He highlights new services from France into Switzerland, through major hubs in Italy, and a single-line highspeed track that will link Paris with Barcelona within 18 months.
The most popular journeys for Australians, according to Rail Europe, are aboard Eurostar, France’s TGV (celebrating 30 years of service), and Italian and Spanish trains; Swiss Pass and Eurail Pass are also big sellers.
Jonathan Hume, managing director for International Rail Australasia, says ‘‘trains are fast overtaking flights as the preferred way to see the continent’’. Leonard and Hume attribute this increase to superfast speeds (up to 300km/h), comfort, and the fact passengers are transported to and from central points without the lengthy security-check delays experienced at airports. ‘‘Eurostar from London to Paris takes passengers from the centre of London to the centre of Paris in just two hours and 20 minutes,’’ Hume says.
Stations are now filled with shops, restaurants and business lounges; there’s the ease of check-through luggage from railway to airport (a feature at larger Swiss stations) and the improved ease of purchasing tickets and passes online. Leonard advises that Australians can now access advance fares and he particularly recommends pre-booking journeys in Britain to avoid the high cost of tickets purchased on the day of travel.