The Null Device

Rail travel today

A recent issue of The Times has a fairly detailed section on rail travel today; this section includes a survey of the state of European rail travel (summary: it's enjoying a renaissance, thanks to Eurostar and environmental consciousness, likely to improve further when cheap flights dry up, though ticketing still has some way to go before booking international rail journeys is as easy as booking flights), a section on travelling across Europe on Inter-Rail passes (along with four recommended European rail journeys to make with one's pass), as well as articles on train travel in Italy and India, shinkansen journeys in Japan, the backpacker-infested Trans-Siberian Express (whose 1-week journey time, the previous article notes, could be slashed to 18 hours if it was rebuilt using maglev technology soon to be deployed in Japan), as well as various luxury train journeys, such as the current holder of the "Orient Express" trademark (an opulent art-deco train journey from London to Verona), the Canadian Rockies and opulent Hungarian luxury trains. Also, Australia's Adelaide-Darwin rail link gets a writeup, getting rather mixed reviews (apparently the "Darwin" terminus 18km from the city centre is an afterthought, the carriages aren't quite as luxurious as one would believe, and the ride is bumpy; not to mention the fact that, catering only to tourists (it's too expensive for casual commuters) and having no stations along the way, it's "not quite a proper train" compared to others).

For anyone wanting more information on rail travel in various parts of the world, there's always The Man In Seat Sixty-One, a (somewhat UK-centric) one-stop information shop for rail buffs and travellers with an aversion to air travel.

There are 2 comments on "Rail travel today":

Posted by: datakid Thu Mar 30 19:42:43 2006

<rant> I guess they don't think about the adelaide darwin like we do. It was quite obvious from the start to 'those in the know' that it was actually built as a freight train - the reason it exists is to make the middle of Australia more attractive to mining interests - in particular Uranium miners.

Carting all that ore or even refined product by truck is annoying, whereas shipping it straight to Darwin port, as opposed to the significantly further away Adelaide, Perth, etc makes it cheaper. Also, less time on the boat as well.

Of course, it also makes the centre more a attractive place to dump other country's old used uranium waste as well, cos 'no one lives there anyway', and it's now cheap to get to.

It's similar to the concept of the newspaper - the consumer thinks it's there for them, but really it's there for big business.

Might I point you to the site. </rant>

Posted by: acb Thu Mar 30 21:12:14 2006

I'm sure it does have to do with mining. Though wasn't cheaper transport for imported goods (ship to Darwin then train, rather than ship to Sydney/Melbourne) another economic rationale?

The passenger rationale was obviously an afterthought, given that there aren't any stations other than the termini and Alice Springs. (I wonder if it has the longest uninterrupted stretch of track used by passenger trains in the world.) Having said that, I would like to travel on this line at some stage.