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European Train Travel vs Flying: A Case Study for Event Travel

In the age of instant gratification, getting to an event destination as fast as possible has become a priority for many people. However, there are some people like myself who at times like the relaxed, more scenic route of train travel. In this blog, I will discuss the pros and cons of European train travel compared to flying for sustainable events in Europe. I will also provide a case study of a trip I took in September 2022, where the train was taken from London to Hamburg.

The trip in question involved providing audience response systems for an evening event. I hadn’t flown since COVID and decided I do not miss it and the kid in me loves train travel.

So, I decided to give it a go. But also, a key decision was because, at the time of booking, there were major baggage issues at UK airports. The route taken was London St Pancras to Brussels, Brussels to Cologne, Cologne to Hamburg. The trip took a total of nine hours city to city.

Here are some of the positives and negatives of the trip.

Positives:

  1. Comfortable and relaxed: Taking the train allowed for a more comfortable and relaxed journey, which helped to reduce any stress or exhaustion that may have come from flying.

  2. Productive: Being able to get on with work during the journey was a huge benefit, especially with the availability of great WiFi.

  3. Easy and clear to change trains: The train journey was seamless, making it easy to change trains, even in different countries.

  4. Cost effective: The trip was very cost effective, especially when compared to the cost of flying once you take into account travel to and from airports. Additionally, travelling first class in Europe is equivalent to a UK standard class ticket - However, you do have to pay for refreshments, unlike many of the services in the UK.

  5. Eurostar was efficient: Eurostar, which is the train service from London to Brussels, was particularly efficient and comfortable.

Negatives:

  1. Train delays: The German trains did not quite run to time, which was surprising. This led to a delay of 1.5 hours to Hamburg. However, no connections were missed, and additional trains were available.

  2. Problems getting refreshments on the train as they were only accepting cash. This may have just been an issue on that particular train. Always have some cash with you in case.

  3. Lack of luggage space and racks on the German trains.

  4. Late night arrival: Arriving at a train station late at night, especially if you are on your own, can be a bit sketchy. This was the case in Hamburg where outside the station and on the local metro it was quite shady. What also strikes me is the train stations in Europe were not as clean and well-maintained as in the UK.

If you're traveling with Carnet paperwork for equipment your carrying, keep in mind that you may need extra time to have it signed and stamped at both St Pancras and your Eurostar destination (in my case, Brussels). Make sure to factor in this additional time when planning your trip. I only had a 15min connection at Brussels which made getting our paperwork signed very tight.


Despite the negatives, in conclusion, traveling by train in Europe for events, conferences, and meetings is recommended. My experience highlighted the benefits of a more relaxed and productive journey that is also very cost-effective. Although there were some negatives, such as delays and lack of storage, they were outweighed by the overall experience. European train travel is cost-effective, eco-friendly, and allows you to see some stunning scenery that is often missed when flying. Not to mention, train travel produces less CO2 emissions than flying, making it a more environmentally friendly choice for sustainable events.

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