My Chariot Awaits
It’s heresy to say this on an aviation-oriented blog, especially given who my sponsors are (I’m sorry, Finnair!) but can I just say that my train ride to Moscow today provided compelling proof that in Europe, Russia and parts of eastern Asia at least, rail is almost certainly going to overtake air travel in the future.
I have no agenda when I say this. If anything, I’m pro-flying. Even in this age of inconvenience – the long waits, the interminable queues, the increasingly humiliating security checks – I still love planes. Apart from the Shuttle, I can’t think of a single more exciting way to travel, today. Whether you are packed in to Economy seats like sardines – there’s a reason some call it Cattle Class – or riding in the lap of business class luxury, very little equals the surreal glamour of travelling at 850km an hour, 10, 11 or even 12,000 metres above the earth.
Still, train travel isn’t far behind. It’s true that in terms of the journey itself, planes are still much faster (at least until they iron the kinks out of Maglev) but add in the distance from city to airport, the 2+ hours that most airports now require you to turn up for a flight and the travel time from the airport on the other end to your final destination and minute for minute, high-speed train travel is almost as fast and in some cases, even faster than flying.
Take my train today, the Sapsan. It’s true, it isn’t the fastest of the fast trains and I could easily have flown to Moscow but I chose the train because in the end, the flying would only have been 90 minutes faster, with all the transfers taken into consideration.
Babushka Is Overcome By The Beauty Of It All
The Sapsan is about as far removed from the old Soviet-era trains as is possible to imagine. The carriages are of German manufacture (Siemens) and so were as comfortable as any of the high-speed lines that run in Europe.
My cabin was non-smoking, clean and spacious with plenty of overhead storage. Each compartment had a coat-rack (with hangars!) and there was lots of room to stow away larger baggage between the seats.
Beats a Coat Hook, Any Day
Even in second class, at a seat without a table in front of it, I had plenty of room. My laptop fit neatly on the fold-down table without my keyboard riding up onto my tummy – and this is not, dear readers, because my build has been getting more slender of late – and I was able to angle the screen comfortably.
There was a trolley service for tea, coffee and snacks as well as the buffet cart. The toilets were spacious and spotless and the aisle was wide enough to allow you to walk down it and not fall into anyone’s lap on the way (Entities-Formerly-Known-As-British-Rail, please take note) and while the elderly gentleman next to me probably didn’t appreciate me getting out of my seat all the time to look around and no doubt wondered why in god’s name I was taking photos of my seat, I’m sure with Russian nonchalance he chalked that down to foreign eccentricity.
The journey was fast and painless. We left on schedule and yes, we arrived in Moscow on schedule too.
Ran Like Clockwork