The Great Race


Which was faster the plane or the train? Click to find out

After the rather sombre tone of our recent posts, here is a little light hearted fun, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph. There’s been a long-standing debate between the editor of W-wa Jeziorki blog and BTWT about what is the best way to travel long-distance in Europe – high speed train or take the plane. We maintain that travel by train is inherently superior. You can work on your laptop, read a book or engage the other travellers in conversation. Every time one travels by plane, one’s life is shortened by 6 weeks because of the stress and toxic fumes involved. In reply our friend Mike claims that plane travel is faster.

When the Eurostar service was transferred to St Pancras and the shortest rail journey time from London to Paris was shortened to just 2 hours 15 minutes, the Daily Telegraph decided to put both modes of transport to the test. Two of its travel writers were sent out to race from Westminster to the Eiffel Tower.

Francisca Kellett took the plane: the British Airways 12:50 from Heathrow

We meet in the morning in the slanting shadow of Big Ben. Not quite pistols at dawn. I don’t need a pistol. I have an aeroplane.

How can I be anything but optimistic? I am taking the fastest mode of transport available to the travelling public.

My flight, from Heathrow to Paris Charles de Gaulle, is scheduled to take a whisper more than an hour. Charles’s Eurostar journey takes two hours 15 minutes.

Even taking into account the time it takes to get to the airport, check in, pass through security and do it all again at the other end, I’m bound to win. I own this race. It’s mine.

Click here to read the rest of Francisca’s account of her journey.

Charles Starmer-Smith took the train: the Eurostar 12:30 from St Pancras

Our head-to-head begins under Big Ben. As we both set off from Parliament Square, the sun illuminates the clock’s golden hands. Today is all about time.

I arrive at St Pancras by Tube, well ahead of schedule, which gives me a chance to marvel at the revamped station. It took 11 years for the architect Alastair Lansley to create what he calls “a deliberate essay in saying we’re going to be bigger and better than our rivals”. As shafts of blue light cascade down from the majestic roof of iron and glass, it seems worth the wait.

I wander though the pillared concourse, but none of the shops and restaurants is open, there’s no sign of the farmers’ market we were promised and a few businessmen grumble that even the executive lounge is closed. But they are soon appeased by complimentary boxes of Champagne and chocolate by way of apology. A children’s choir on the concourse launches into My Favourite Things.

Click here to read the rest of Charles’s account of his journey.

Seen the video? If not click on the picture at the head of this article. I think that there’s no question as to which is the superior mode of transport. N’est-ce pas?

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2 Responses to “The Great Race”

  1. Michael Dembinski Says:

    OK Dyzpozytor – let’s try Big Ben to Pałac Kultury. I’m flying via Luton or Gatwick or Stansted, or Heathrow, or London City. It’ll take me seven hours max, city centre to city centre. Including a long time in Duty Free looking for a good price for that 80-400mm Nikon zoom, booze, perfume, satirical mags etc.

    So you can get to Brussels quickly – then take the train onto Warsaw. See you the middle of next week, mate! (I exaggerate for the sake of effect; shortest journey time from Brussels to W-wa Centralna is 14 hours 41 mins with two changes at Cologne and Berlin).

    OK, I’m all for a high-speed rail link across the continent. And indeed, I’m sure it’s a good thing for the environment, European integration, etc. But I still can’t see train beating plane on a 1,000 mile journey.

    Do you remember the Daily Express London-Paris race in 1968? Won by a Harrier Jump Jet!

  2. Andy in Germany Says:

    In addition to this, those of us who need to go the the frozen wastes of the north often find that rail is easily faster, no questions asked. From Stuttgart to Durham is is a 24 hour stop-start and overnight stop in a hotel somewhere on the edge of Manchester airport by air, and a 12 hour (probably shorter of we use the new high speed link to Paris) ride by train.

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