According to UK rail holiday specialist company, Great Rail Journeys (GRJ), 40,000 Britons take package rail holidays every year. Whether the change in attitudes is due fear of flying, or simply a move to slow down away from the hectic pace of normal life, avoiding the inevitable rush to meet tight deadlines imposed by connecting flights, and crowed airports – many travelers today have chosen that they simply don’t want to travel to their destination by plane.
Back in the 1950’s rail holidays were all the rage, despite commercial aviation just starting to take hold following relief from the austerity of the war and an excess of ex-military aircraft. As the 1960’s and 70’s progressed however, technological advances meant that flying became more affordable and traveling abroad by air took hold. For many years rail still had the advantage of cost over air travel for internal journeys, however the growth of the low cost airlines, and poor investment in the infrastructure of many of the UK train lines, has left a sad legacy for the UK rail network.
The change in the trends over recent years back towards rail travel, especially by younger travelers, may in part be due to the ease with which the Channel Tunnel affords access to Europe. It is common these days for young travelers to go on extended travels across Europe by purchasing a Eurailpass. These sorts of trips are most often associated with backpacker holidays, but they represent an extremely convenient ways to easily see a large amount of Europe as the Eurailpass ticket offers unlimited train travel throughout 18 different European countries.
With good networks of European lines, frequent departures on the busy routes and fast train services such as the German ICE, French TGV or the Eurostar connecting France with London, it can often be faster to travel by train rather than flying. One of the main drawbacks experienced by many rail travelers within Europe is the difficulty that can sometimes be experienced finding accurate information and booking linking tickets. Rail providers rarely have details of other rail providers’ services, and most UK travel agents can provide very little rail information once the traveler gets beyond Paris or Brussels. A few websites such as Seat61.com have sprung up to help fill this gap and, despite being an amateur site rather than a commercial venture, can prove to be a good resource for planning rail trips abroad.
UK domestic breaks have also seen a recent resurgence, with UK short weekend breaks becoming extremely popular for shopping trips, quick family getaways or for visits to London to take in a West End show. Recently a few short break travel companies and rail networks like GNER have teamed up to provide a wide variety of rail package deals to UK cities in an effort to bring more travelers back to rail travel by making journeys cheaper and quick holidays easier to arrange.
While the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, “The speed is so easy, and the train disturbs so little the scenes through which it takes us, that our heart becomes full of the placidity and stillness of the country", may not seem to fit in with the current popular image of the UK rail network, many Brits appear to be turning away from the airlines in favour of the railways for trans European travel and short break getaways.
About the author:
Andrew Regan is an online journalist who enjoys socialising at his local Edinburgh cricket club (http://www.acciescricket.co.uk )