A few weeks ago, I caught a train from Manchester to Preston and gave myself a small heart attack when I thought I had accidentally entered First Class instead of taking up my usual place in Second.
The revelation that I, had not inadvertently given myself ideas above my station but, was actually sitting on a new train train led to a Facebook announcement.
This was Big News – have you travelled on the usual offering of trains in the north of England?
I’m currently travelling on an ICE train from Brussels to Berlin (changing at Aachen) and it is a similar experience. Real train geeks can find out more here.
The wifi, for a start, is amazing. It knocks spots off Eurostar’s offering.
Then, there’s the legroom. With foot rests. Foot rests! And the chairs recline, without caving in the skull of the person sitting behind. I’ve even got a pillow.
The luggage space is incredible. There are overhead racks that easily take my 40litre rucksack, plus racks at each end of the carriage with one half way along.
It’s a train actually built for travelling on.
Having travelled from Manchester to London by train, then London to Brussels (where I stopped for moules and frites. It’s Brussels. What else am I going to eat for my one meal in Belgium?), this is the most comfortable I have been all day.
It just leaves me wondering: “Why can’t we have nice things in the UK?”
While I’ve been writing, there’s been an announcement that the train is being diverted the long way around to Aachen (to avoid people on the line between Liege and Aachen) which means I will miss my connection to Berlin.
“Oh, fiddlesticks,” I thought. “Now, what?
Strangely, I didn’t break out in a cold sweat. I knew a solution would be stated within a few moments.
Those of us travelling on to Berlin need to stay on board until we reach Koln (Cologne) where the connection we should have picked up in Aachen will be waiting for us. I think it is being delayed.
Smooth, calm and a conductor sounding so relaxed that the problem doesn’t seem to have created any work. Similar situations in the UK seem to trigger an undertone of: ‘Do you have any idea how hard we’ve had to work to fix this?’
Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s because I’m travelling for fun rather than for work and that’s why I’m not stressed. But I still have an early morning bus to catch, from Berlin, to get to Warsaw. So, I could do with the train arriving on time.
So far… and we’ll see what happens when I get to Berlin… but as far as public transport goes, it’s Belgium and Germany 1, UK 0.
EDIT: Update… we pulled into Koln, with further announcements of a later than anticipated arrival. Cue: much huffing and grumping from the passengers around me. My German is extremely poor but the reactions confirmed my suspicions that this was not good news.
The train I needed was leaving at 22:55.
I had less than four minutes to run from Platform 3 to Platform 4.
The two platforms were not next to each other. That would have been easy.
They were across the rails from each other and German station platforms (like most of them in the countries I’ve been to) are raised, i.e. you access the platform via a flight of stairs.
I followed the surge of backpackers (where had they all come from?), and ran along the platform, down the stairs, along the concourse, up the next set of stairs, down that platform… because, that train, the train in front, the one closest, wasn’t going to Berlin, oh no, it was the train at the far end of the platform we needed.
We ran. It was 22:55.
The train conductor stepped off the train.
“Berlin?” I gasped, pointing at the train.
“Ja,” he said.
I dived on.
And, not the doors didn’t close behind me. That would have been a more dramatic ending but it isn’t what happened.
All of the passengers scrambling off the delayed train from Brussels were given time to climb onto the waiting train.
We’re now on our way to Berlin and the conductor tells me that the train is still expected to arrive on time. I’ve even had an email from Deutsche Bahn (the rail company) to confirm this.
It’s just so civilised.
Final point… I hope (I still reserve the right to remain pessimistic)… that 40 litre rucksack is the BEST thing I’ve ever bought. There is no way I’d have been running with anything heavier.
*Featured photo: The ICE 1119 from Brussels to Koln – I didn’t expect to be staying on for the whole journey. I should have known I was tempting fate when I thought: “Ooh, wouldn’t it have been nice to go there again?” Wasn’t really hoping for that wish to be granted. 🤣