Saturday, 4 June 2011
FIRST CLASS THROUGH EUROPE ON THE JEAN MONET
I have recently returned from a tour of inspection of timetable issuing practice in Luxembourg and what was found was surprisingly pleasing.
En route at Brussels Midi, SNCB practice since I was last there in 2008 was not much different. The intercity and foreign timetables were readily on display. Others not so. Nor was obtaining Eurostar timetable leaflets that obvious although ultimately a printed A4 sheet was produced. Eurostar appeared as coy back at home.
But in Luxembourg it was refreshing to find well designed attractive print flourishing. I can particularly recommend the ladies at Luxembourg Gare. They were very helpful and there were masses of information available in front of and behind the counters.
The core levels of issue were thus:
CFL Rail, individual route leaflets. For 2 Euro a set is sold along with a route map packaged as if they were playing cards in a box. Rather clever.
CFL National bus including private companies. A grand loose leaf timetable rather like the old WYPTE once did. 4 Euro or 6 Euro with chasseur (specially printed binder). The system for a place the size of Suffolk is dense.
Detailed route leaflets readily to hand. Also a bound paperback volume which was 2 Euro.
Other leaflets for preserved railways, Moselle tripboats were available. City Sightseeing had a leaflet but not obviously for the amazing route of the Petrusse Express tractor train. Their office was not adorned in leaflets and nor were the vehicles, as distinct from British practice.
At Apach which is a frontier station on the SNCF/DB border near Schengen, freight services were regular. Passenger trains were much more sparse but the waiting room was open and a selection of local SNCF timetables available.
I can whole heartedly recommend Train 1900 which is Luxembourg's premier preserved train operation. Comes with nice leaflets and guidebooks but not in English.
My Facebook albums now show a few photos and some links to a friend's album.
I had booked two first class returns from Newcastle to Luxembourg using the SNCB route (you could have gone all SNCF) for £683 through Trains Europe at March (have BR family railcard). This was one adult and an 11 year old. Just for fun I tried to re-price it all on line today with Rail Europe, Eurostar and DB sites. I found the first two practically impossible to use for this journey (even selecting first class did not strike me as easy, let alone saying I had a railcard for the British leg). The DB webpage was much more organised and quickly produced the correct times. But when asked for a fare said I had to phone up!
A challenge to the readers, could I have priced this journey on line?
An English version of an SNCB Buy your International Train Tickets leaflet bemoaned that European competition legislation was putting their ticket sales operation under pressure. A re-run of how BRI came to an end in the mid 1990s? It does seem very sad that European rail travel is far more difficult to arrange than it used to be.
Yet the journey was far easier. Out of Newcastle at 0825, into Luxembourg at 1940 on time. Back at 1024, and into Newcastle at about 1950 and that was an hour late after multiple cable thefts on the ECML. Going to Luxembourg by train is speedy and practical with only two changes. And there are route choices. Working it out is the problem. Do turn to The Man in Seat 61 for some help. And you could have travelled Basel to Aberdeen with the trains we used. The 1024 at Luxembourg was the 0646 Jean Monet Basel to Brussels. The 1600 from Kings Cross is an Aberdeen service. Really long train journeys across Europe from GB with only two changes in total and effectively no change of stations are possible. An interesting challenge would be what is the longest European rail journey possible in one day with only two train changes one of which has to be Kings Cross/St Pancras complex and the other has to be within a station (could be just St Pancras but for length you would have be on the ECML and no Paris cross station transfer permitted)? These are my terms and there is no prize save for a 10% discount on your next Specialist Auctions timetable orders from my listings.
As for the NRM, in addition to the thought that the arisings might end up with the Forsythe Collection, at about 0920 on Tuesday we passed Flying Scotsman in its wartime black garb stabled outside the NRM and managing to look very smart.