The usual problems faced by commuters and travellers alike over the festive period – traffic, cost and lack of availability – were all magnified this year due to the bad weather we experienced in the UK.
Airports ground to a halt: Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh were just a few of the airports that were either closed or subject to severe delays in the days leading up to Christmas. This meant that many travellers needed to look for alternatives to flying. For those living in major cities or travelling across the country, motorways were often at a stand-still, so the best option was to travel by rail.
At SilverDoor we have always been keen advocates of rail travel: it’s a practical, cost-effective way for us to visit our clients and property partners. We’re not the only ones who feel this way: recent research has found that rail travel is now the number one form of transport for business travellers and is particularly popular for journeys of six hours or less.
At SilverDoor we find rail travel particularly convenient when we visit our property partners in Europe. Many popular business destinations on the continent are within easy reach of the UK by train: from London it’s possible to travel to Brussels in under two hours, Geneva in three and Basel in less than six. As passengers can spend this time productively, rather than waiting in long airport queues, it’s often a more time-efficient way to travel. Travelling by train can also be more comfortable than flying, and more enjoyable, especially now that ‘business zones’ have been added to many long-distance trains. Some services, such as the ICE International trains between Cologne and Frankfurt, have gone as far as to introduce a panorama lounge where large sections of the compartment walls are glass, allowing passengers to really enjoy the view.
Rail travel in the UK is improving too. Our Rates Manager, Alice Brunel-Cohen, lives close to Europe’s busiest station, Clapham Junction, and travels by rail frequently. “As well as travelling comfortably every morning on the train with very few delays, I also regularly visit our property partners around the country. Travelling long journeys by train gives me a chance to prepare for my meetings without the stresses associated with driving. With no parking, map reading or road rage, catching the train is definitely the way forward in business.”
In the UK an estimated £32 billion will be invested in Network Rail over the next 4 years which will involve network enhancement, improved day-to-day maintenance, station upgrades, East Coast line improvements and various station redevelopments. Meanwhile, local projects are also improving travel. The London 2012 Olympics rail improvement scheme will make commuting to east London even easier from all over the country. Furthermore, the plans for the development of a second high-speed rail line between the south and north of the UK will be released in March 2011: this project, although it will take nearly two decades to complete, can only strengthen rail connections in the UK.
Rail travel is also, of course, much better for the environment. It causes 85% less pollution than travelling by plane and, on average, a train uses five times less fuel per passenger than a car would travelling the same distance. In line with our CSR policies we encourage all of our staff to use public transport whenever it’s practical to do so.