Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Train travel - UK looks to the future, my journey from Baltimore - NYC

The Government of the UK announced on 16th July it is investing £9.4 billion into Britain's rail infrastructure, this will see better connections, rail upgrades, faster trains, better services, developments to stations and the electrification to 850 miles of rail way (small seeming as London Underground is over 250 miles). But this should be seen as the biggest upgrade since the Victorian era - and about time too.

Unfortunately our trains run incredibly slow - unless on a fast-speed on Virgin or off to Birmingham or Brighton from London. The carriages are often poor and neither catered to business commuters or leisure travelers - sort of fall in between, and the costs are almost out of reach. I cannot justify a trip home to my parents at £45 when it costs the same in petrol and takes just as long.

Britain uses all sorts of excuses for delayed or canceled train - it's too hot, it's too wet, there's too much ice, the drivers are on strike, the lights don't work, the carriage is being cleaned. I am sure this happens elsewhere. I always enjoyed traveling by train in Europe because it is FAST and CHEAP. However my experience in the USA was different.

I once made a journey from LA to San Francisco by train, it took about 15 hours. I left a dawn and arrived near to midnight. Coming into San Francisco as a 21 year old I felt a little lost. But the journey was long. This long train that seemed to be more for transporting goods than people, appeared to need as much time to stop as it did to get up to a mediorce speed. I think I spent most the trip in standstill. Yet, just two weeks ago I decided to avoid my flights to NYC and head by train.

Booking was the first nightmare - real-time pricing. No sooner had I found a cheap train ticket, I went to purchase, keyed in all my details, and suddenly that seat was sold. This happened four times until magically it worked. But a ticket that started off at $66, I ended up buying for $101 and actually paying $122...all a bit of a shrewd game by the train company!

But, the journey was a quick 2hours 45 minutes, in comfortable chairs with electric points and free wi-fi. There was no comparison with the UK, in essence they did everything right for the passenger, including making more money from me....

{photos from Baltimore to NYC and arriving in NYC}