Pic: David Gubler

Increased security measures at airports, long queues as a result of increased security and the rising costs of air travel could make business travellers think twice about taking to the skies.

While train travel has always been popular in Europe, it might not always have been the obvious choice for South African travellers who are used to commuting domestically by air. However, with ticket sales now open on Eurostar’s much anticipated new London to Amsterdam route, there is definitely merit in considering train travel vs air travel on your next business trip in and around Europe.

According to Ryan Potgieter, Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT) South Africa Brand Leader, figures show that an average of four million passengers a year fly between London and Amsterdam, making it one of Europe’s busiest air routes.

“Besides the new service by Eurostar challenging established airlines on the route, it is targeting potential customers through speed and efficiency, cost, and also by playing on the heart strings of environmentally conscious travellers saying that a London-Amsterdam Eurostar journey emits 80% less carbon than the equivalent flight,” says Potgieter.

A matter of time

To set the record straight, not all train journeys are quicker than plane journeys. At least, not at first glance.

While a flight between London and Paris takes roughly 75 minutes, compared to a Eurostar journey of two hours and 20 minutes, it is essential to look at the bigger picture. “Business travellers should look beyond the actual journey time and rather look at the total travelling time,” says Potgieter.

“Keep in mind that much time is spent in the stop-and-go of catching a plane, especially with modern security screenings taking a large chunk of time at the airport,” says Potgieter.

It is also worth mentioning that the layout and design of train stations in general tend to be smaller and more efficient than larger international airports, which ultimately makes the entire security and passport control process much less time-consuming.

When it comes to boarding, trains tend to be much faster than boarding a flight, too.

“Instead of queuing along an aerobridge to pass through a single door, you line up along the platform according to the carriage number on your ticket, cutting out the stop-start nature of boarding a flight.”

Cost

For many travellers the novelty of air travel has now moved to rail and has less to do with money spent, but more about the convenience and experience of travel.

If money is a considering factor, then travellers will be happy to know that more often than not they will be able to access cheaper fares, even sometimes up to a third cheaper, on rail than on plane travel.

And to be honest, if you’ve ever agonised over fluctuating airfare prices from one day to the next, then some saving sanity is that train fares tend to be the same day after day on any particular route, whether it’s Monday or Saturday, April or August, two months in advance or two days before departure. 

Convenience and relaxation

Unless you are an ‘all-the-time’ high flyer privileged enough to fly full service airlines in business class on all your trips, then let’s face it, plane travel is really becoming less convenient and relaxing.

Instead of being crammed into a tiny seat, with hardly enough space between and your fellow traveller to rest an arm, train travel on the opposite spectrum allows for one of the least stressful forms of transportation out there. You’ll have more legroom than you would on an airplane and you’ll be able to move around at will.

If you need to catch up on some office work or important emails, most modern train operators now offer plug points to charge electronics and as well as Wi-Fi. If you are looking for some added luxury or quiet time, operators such as Eurostar also provide class travel, where in higher classes you can look forward to adjustable seats, lounge access, flexible tickets and a hot meal.  

If you have partnered with a reliable TMC, like Flight Centre Business Travel, they should be able to advise you on your options and ensure your business trip is as efficient as it should be.