Off the rails: are you feeling the train pain?

I love train travel. Actually, slight correction, I love the idea of train travel.

If there’s a long journey to be made, the thought of settling down at a table for a few hours with a newspaper, a book and a cup of coffee or a cheeky beer is enough to make me wish I’d been around for the Golden Age of Steam.

However, the reality is often quite different; crammed carriages, endless delays and worst of all, the flatly extortionate prices. The annual price hike, which hit earlier this month, has become a yearly reminder that Christmas is well and truly over.

As a Brighton resident, this year’s three per cent rise has meant that if I need to be in London for 9am, it will now cost me more than £60 for the privilege. Sixty pounds. Sure, I can get a later train at less than half the price, but sometimes you just can’t avoid those peak times – and it’s a killer.

It’s not just me, you’ll be glad to hear. I was chatting to one event planner last week who was telling me that if he’s got to organise an event for delegates from the South West, it is cheaper to charter a plane to Amsterdam and do the event there than it is to get them into London by train. Surely something has gone very wrong with the price of train travel when it becomes more cost effective for planners to hire an aeroplane.

I was at a Eurostar event this month where they were proudly shouting about their recent collaboration with Virgin Trains. The hook-up means that UK destinations such as Manchester, Liverpool, York and Leeds are now firmly part of the Eurostar network – with opportunities for private carriage hire, bespoke branding and a whole range of onboard events for delegates, such as wine-tasting and gastronomic experiences. It’s evidence of how train travel and event planning can be done cleverly, making the travel itself part of the event experience.

However, clearly not all train travel can be like this, and I suspect for the majority of planners the train is becoming less and less of an option as fares rise and budgets tighten.

Are you finding the train is no longer figuring in your plans? And if so, what needs to be done to get meeting and events train travel back on track?