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Monday, May 15, 2006

It was like a dragon racing by...

I recently had cause to train ride around the country, it was the first outing for my shiny laptop. I have to say, I prefer flying, the entire process I find more streamlined, I go to I print out a ticket, go to the airport and I'm happily directed to a door and step on the plane, one complimentary Gin & Tonic Later I'm at my destination. On the train, I've got work out which line, which stops, if I need to change, where to sit, do I get a first class upgrade it's all just so much work. The only advantage I found was that I could simply opt to miss the train I booked for the return and get on a different one forgoing my booked seat, now I don't know if you can do this at an airport or if you can, I'm sure it's not quite as assured. I liked the fact that all the coaches on my train had power points on all the tables for laptops, cell phones etc.

Of course you can cut things slightly finer on the trains, mounting mere moments prior to departure. Security implications and the logistics of airports mean I must arrive some 30 minutes prior to departing on an internal flight and an hour if travelling internationally.
Delays are risky on both, I suppose you tend to get less engineering works causing closures at 20000 feet. I have had to cancel dinner plans when travelling on both services.

I was only a child when the national rail services were privatised in an attempt to improve service, investments and safety whilst netting large sums of money from the private sector for the administration. I never experienced nationalised rail travel, I have some memories of leaving family members on trains and those trains be large horrid dirty smelly things, which could of course be partially linked to the circumstances. In-spite of that the manner in which the railways were privatised I believe is widely accepted to have been flawed. Whether this opinion is held primarily by the vocal left purely on ideological grounds I do not know. Or what the results of a survey of rail users about their experiences, the costs, and thoughts on safety etc over the past 30 years of rail travel might conclude.
In the same vein I never travelled on our flag carrier when it was a nationalised commodity. People seem less inclined to remember the process of privatising the flag carrier, possibly because that was a privatisation success and as such serves not the vocal lefts objectives.

Maybe in the context of the "long now" a train is more rewarding as few hundred mile journey takes maybe 3-4 hours varying on the number of stops. This means I can sit back and write drivel like this. I can catch up on my lengthy pod cast lists, I managed to conquer several TWiTs, three Mac Geek Gabs, and a Mac OS Ken that I had missed. On a plane, the same journey means you're in the air for maybe 60 minutes, 10 assent, 10 decent so I can't have my laptop out for 20 minutes out of that hour. Clearly then the distances I'm talking about might be influencing my perception of those short comings. When I fly intercontinental I'd get hours with my laptop out.

On that idea I have seen discussions recently that the aircraft actually have a proprietary power connector rather than a standard socket, and people are wondering if you could actually power a mac book pro from these little power sources even with an adapter. Does the train socket draw power from the line or is there a huge battery under the train with the juice in ? Either way has implications when contrasting with air travel.

Customer services I always think are better on aircraft. Excluding my complimentary G & T, I enjoy being welcomed aboard by the attractive lady or handsome gentleman, them using my name and directing my to my seat, asking if I need anything, a pillow, a blanket, coitus perhaps ? Where as on the train today I have been shouted at for my ticket, mumbled at because I asked about a first class upgrade and been given a paper cut by the ticket attendant when he snatched my ticket.

Both methods of transport have fabulous views and remind me why I think we have a marvellously luscious country. Green rolling fields mixed with copses and hamlets dropped around in beautiful scenes. All interspersed with our great industrial heritage, mills, factories, mines etc themselves complemented by modern glass edifices all makes me grateful that this stupid ape wa born on our damp little island. Views from the sky are equally inspiring, although I doubt worth as much detail. When flying intercontinental I would suppose there can be little inspiration from all that blue, unless you studied at some oceanographic centre in your past.

Getting an internet connection is effectively out of the question using either method, although recently there has been word that some companies might deploy WiFi on some train services, I imagine first class only. That then would be a big hitter as far as train travel is concerned I estimate.

A colleague of mine who loves trains claims that he prefers them because he can leverage more control akin to vi over word I estimate.


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