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Could you travel by rail for over 4 hours on business?

April 24, 2013
Author: Philip Martin

There is a theory that a rail journey over 4 hours is not attractive for business travel, so I decided to try this out. 

I’ve been travelling more and more by rail for business. What is driving this increase is the ability for me to be able to book rail travel as part of my total trip. In our corporate booking tool Amadeus e-Travel Management we can sell French rail services and their partner railways such as Thalys and Eurostar.

Door to door experience London to Grasse...

I recently travelled to London for a B2B marketing event and my return journey was with Eurostar and then SNCF to Grasse via Cannes. It all ran smoothly. My journey started with a short metro journey from my hotel to St Pancras International rail station. I went straight to the business lounge for a quick read of the Economist and then onto Eurostar for breakfast, and I could now start my working day.

This proved to be one of my most productive days too. I don’t know what it is, but being able to look out of the window and see England and then France flashing by was providing a wonderful therapeutic experience in between answering emails, reading material from the event I had attended in London, and then reviewing and writing reports.

I arrived back home door to door in about 9 hours from leaving London, and I can honestly say hand on heart that I was productive throughout the day, with the only interruptions being the change from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon and waiting for the train at Cannes for Grasse, but by then my working day was complete.

Onboard services...

There were some nice services onboard; Eurostar offers to order you a taxi on arrival at Gare du Nord (why not a RER ticket instead if they know I’m in transit?) and I was glad of this, because the taxi driver was waiting for us and took us to straight to the taxi within minutes. On the way there we passed what must have been one of the longest taxi lines I have ever seen. 

Cannes to Brussels and back...

I did a similar journey but this time to Brussels and back. There is actually a direct service to Brussels from Cannes but it only runs once a day I believe, so it didn’t appear on my point to point search. Again I had to change at Gare De Lyon but had ample time to get to Gare du Nord for my Thalys journey.


WiFi and THE international rail hub...

I was looking forward to my Thalys trip because once on board I could use the Wi-Fi service (yay!) and download emails that had been waiting for me on my way up from Cannes. The whole trip was a little over 7 hours and takes you to the international station Brussels Midi. Here you get to see a real international high speed rail hub in operation with Thalys, DB ICE, Eurostar and NsHispeed all on show, which was pretty impressive.

The only improvement I could see on the whole experience was to be able to print my tickets at home rather than having to go to the station in order to collect them. The local station Grasse does not have this facility so I had to go to Cannes to get my SNCF and Eurostar tickets, which wasn’t the best for me as it’s an hours round trip. The London metro was fine as I have an oyster card (wouldn’t it be great to travel on everything with a card like this?) and the taxi transit across Paris was taken care of on the train by Eurostar staff.

All in all I will continue to take the train for the longer journeys outside of the 4 hour business “comfort” zone, as long as they fit to my schedule and have easy connections.



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