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Transportation Finding A Balance

drummer

10+ Posts

Hey

OPENING

So I'm sure most of us here agree on how we travel to some degree. Otherwise we wouldn't be here.
For us, we want to avoid flying. In doing so, we're prepared to accept a slower pace and longer journey time to get to our destination.
However, the realities of life dictate that a balance must be struck. Our thoughts on the matter are, longer journey times should not:
  • add unnecesary need for more leave from work.
  • involve excessively long waits at transport hubs.
  • be so arduous that it is unenjoyable.
  • be significantly more expensive than flying.
Of course what determines 'excessively long' and 'more expensive' is subjective to each person and case.
For example:
  • taking 1.5days to get to a 3day holiday is about the limit of our endurance.
    • However, we could accept 2.5days travel for a fortnight's holiday.
  • waiting 4.5hours for a train, having disembarked a ferry at midnight is unreasonable.
    • However, we like about a 30min transfer time to allow for small delays and discrepancies in arrival/departure times.
  • in my mind, paying 100€ more for surface travel over flying is worth it. Even if it takes an extra day. So long as the travel is smooth and not arduous.
    • We prefer three long legs of an itinerary rather than 8 short hops.

CASE IN POINT

We have an upcoming trip planned, an extended weekend in Amsterdam. Our parameters for the trip are as follows:
  1. We should arrive an depart at around the same time as flying would permit. This is so that we are not detracting from the trip sgnficantly.
  2. Further days of leave should be kept to a minimum.
  3. Cost and stress should too be minimised.
Our outward journey looks like this (alternatives in brackets):
  • 0635-0730 home-DUBLINPORT
  • 0815-1150 dublinport-HOLYHEAD (0730-1130 swift, 0805-1130 ulysses).
  • 1445-2109 holyhead-HARWICH (2030-2215)
  • 2300-0800 harwich-HOEKVH
  • 0841-1040 hoekvh-AMSTERDAM
--- With this schedule, we aren't leaving very early in the morning. It consists of primarily three medium legs; 1)ferry Ire-UK, 2)train across the UK in 2 main parts, 3)ferry UK-NL. We arrive and depart around the same time as flying would allow, however we need an extra day of work at either end of the holiday.

On the return, the best we found was:
  • 1804-2011 amsterdam-HOEKVH.
  • 2200-0515 hoekvh-HARWICH
  • 0625-0648 harwich-MANNINGTREE
  • 0655-0758 manningtree-LIVERPOOLST
  • 0807-0816 liverpoolst-EUSTON
  • 0902-1250 euston-HOLYHEAD
  • 1445-1800 holyhead-DUBLINPORT
--- The issues we have with this itinerary are that, we won't get much sleep before having to disembark the ferry at 5am and tackling the London metro at rush-hour. There are routes which avoid London, however none of them connect us with Holyhead for the 1445 ferry. This means, having disembarked the ferry at 5am, we don't reach home until around 1 am the following morning.

CLOSING​

Surely, there can be better transport links made in both the physical sense and the scheduling sense. We see it so much. StenaLine promote 'sail&rail' prices, yet there is no clear connection between the ferries one side of Britain and the other side. In Ireland, neither the seaports nor airports are well connected. Buses and trains run between Belfast and Dublin and Rosslare. However, none run to the airports in these locations.

If we wished to fly from Belfast and return via Shannon, it would involve trying to connect from Belfast airport to Belfast bus-station or get to the inter-county bus from Galway. None of it is as fluid as it should be.

Any ideas, tips or discussion on the matter ?

 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
Hi drummer
It's been an interesting and thought-provoking discussion, so thanks for sharing your journey ( ;) ) in exploring the options.

Like you I have grown to intensely dislike the modern airport experience, of herding travellers from queue to queue, via 'shopping experiences', with the flight itself being mostly joyless as well. I will caveat that by saying smaller airports e.g. Norwich, Forlì, Parma etc. are much less painful to experience e.g. a friend lives within walking distance of Norwich airport and from the wheels touching down it's typically a mere 10 minutes to leaving the airport building to walk home.

So exploring alternatives is something I will do, but invariably it ends with accepting the flights as grim bookends to an enjoyable holiday.

You're right there's little thought to connecting modes of transport. Why? That's a long and has a degree of politics involved, so I'll try to tread gently:

London-centric transport system. Direct routes across country would be brilliant, but cross-country has a poor service with slower trains (ironically called 'sprinters' back in the day). This means the fastest connections would be via London, incorporating the special hell of the London Underground, which is made much worse with heavy luggage). Birmingham would have been a much better hub logistically, but investment was always focused on London routes.

Privatisation. Whereas I recall the problems of the old British rail, now with all public transport privatised, there is no collaboration to make sensible connections. I recall one particularly annoying journey, from Norwich to York via Peterborough, where the arrival of the train from Norwich was usually delayed a minute away from Peterborough, whilst the Peterborough to York train arrived, prepared for departure, with it leaving just as the Norwich train pulled into the station. Infuriating.

It's a similar story with the buses, with commercial self-interest at the heart of decision-making, rather than being allowed to subsidise something that aids tourism / reduces traffic from other vehicles and provides a coherent infrastructure. The intercity bus companies (just National Express & Megabus) offer fairly grim experiences and 7 hours on one of the older buses with the sole toilet broken, was something I don't want to have to suffer again.

Reliability. We lack the reliable train timetable of Holland, Germany, Italy etc. This is mainly down to having as tight as possible a turnround at the ends of the line, that delays never get caught up. Delays are so typical, especially on those cross-country routes, that a good tight set of connections would frequently fall apart.

Environmental talk is cheap. It's been easy for politicians to talk about their environmental credentials, but that rarely extends to supporting improvement of existing rail infrastructure (fixes aren't sexy), and even showpiece new lines like HS2 are very much a poisoned chalice as costs overrun and the project gets compromised. I don't envisage anyone grasping the nettle and forcing a move back to mass public transport, even though our standard of driving and the overall experience has dipped badly with our over-reliance on that form of transport.

I used to work from time to time in Liverpool, and the train journey was 5hrs 15 mins and not cheap. So much so I ended up *flying* from Norwich to Manchester, then getting the train from there to Liverpool. It saved me a couple of hours and was always cheaper. That was plain stupid.

Other solutions Would 'port to port' car hire be a viable business opportunity for the car hire firms? Or an ability to register for a port to port taxi, and if enough do so to make it viable, it becomes a an option to book. As far as government interest in such initiatives, it would be *less than* zero, as now being outside the EU, the UK govt. see no benefit in bringing 2 EU countries closer together:sour:.

Outside of that, it was interesting being involved in 'systems thinking' in my work, a concept championed by Toyota, and that focuses on removing waste, delays and unnecessary bureaucracy from a process (in this case it would be the 'customer journey) and looking at it from the customer's viewpoint and being driven by genuine *demand, not necessarily current volumes.

It would throw the challenge down of why a customer can't book a straight through ticket, why their connections are rubbish, etc. It's amazing what a simple change in mindset can achieve, by putting yourself in the position of the customer.

* Now that can be a double-edged sword. If our demand, (in this case for a co-ordinated port to port service), wasn't popular enough, the chances of improvements would be slim. However at least by capturing genuine demand, we'd know that and would find it easier to accept when presented by such data. However we might still get benefits from (say) an understanding that there was sufficient demand to improve cross-country services.
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
p.s. it certainly would make sense to plan airports and ports to be close to each other, allowing dual use of transport links to the nearest city and elsewhere. I know of few such places, perhaps as an airport near a port may have been viewed as competition, or the land simply not available due to to port expanding.
 

joe

1000+ Posts
For us, we want to avoid flying. In doing so, we're prepared to accept a slower pace and longer journey time to get to our destination.
However, the realities of life dictate that a balance must be struck.
Hello drummer -
I can't really be of help, but as Ian mentioned, you have brought up an interesting perspective.
Is it OK to ask if the reasons against flying are personal, environmental, or anything else? And what is your opinion about driving (including a rental), or perhaps driving with other people so that the driving and costs can be shared?
The fact that public transportation in many "modern" countries does not serve their citizens optimally is unfortunate indeed.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We are avoiding flying now because we don’t want to be in the crowds at airports and on the planes because of Covid. If I were making the decision alone, I would probably fly masked but my husband Steve is really against it. So we have limited our trips to local trips in the UK that we can drive to in a few hours. And one yearly long trip in Switzerland that we drive to. I am hoping for a driving trip to northern France this spring.

Our situation is different from yours because we are closer to the continent.

I’ve read about ferries from Ireland that bypass the UK and go straight to the EU. Are these a possibility?

The transportation system in the UK is not good. This could be a wonderful country if it had good buses, better trains, more train lines, better connections from airports and ports. The town I live in, Bridport on the Dorset coast, doesn’t even have a train! The closest train line is 30 minutes by car away.
 

drummer

10+ Posts
I will caveat that by saying smaller airports e.g. Norwich, Forlì, Parma etc. are much less painful to experience e.g. a friend lives within walking distance of Norwich airport and from the wheels touching down it's typically a mere 10 minutes to leaving the airport building to walk home.
I have to agree. We have used Cork airport which tends to me a more pleasant experience. However, the issue is the lack of connectivity. Arriving, it involves a taxi to the city, to be left waiting on a dank and dark riverside for an hour or so to catch a bus to Dublin.
Previous pleasant experiences with small airports though, are Almeria, Beziers and Koh Samui.

Privatisation. Whereas I recall the problems of the old British rail, now with all public transport privatised, there is no collaboration to make sensible connections. I recall one particularly annoying journey, from Norwich to York via Peterborough, where the arrival of the train from Norwich was usually delayed a minute away from Peterborough, whilst the Peterborough to York train arrived, prepared for departure, with it leaving just as the Norwich train pulled into the station. Infuriating.
We have similar issues here. The train to Rosslare arrives minutes after the ferry to France departs. The next available is hours later.

The intercity bus companies (just National Express & Megabus) offer fairly grim experiences and 7 hours on one of the older buses with the sole toilet broken, was something I don't want to have to suffer again.
Actually, there is also Citylink, which I think is part of the same group as Megabus. They connect Glasgow city to Cairnryan ferryport.

And Hannons.
They have a reasonable service from Glasgow to Belfast. It's a straight through service. It would be nice if they could extend this to Dublin though.

I used to work from time to time in Liverpool, and the train journey was 5hrs 15 mins and not cheap. So much so I ended up *flying* from Norwich to Manchester, then getting the train from there to Liverpool. It saved me a couple of hours and was always cheaper. That was plain stupid.
You mean 'plane stupid' ?

Other solutions Would 'port to port' car hire be a viable business opportunity for the car hire firms? Or an ability to register for a port to port taxi, and if enough do so to make it viable, it becomes a an option to book. As far as government interest in such initiatives, it would be *less than* zero, as now being outside the EU, the UK govt. see no benefit in bringing 2 EU countries closer together:sour:.
I have wondered if a mini-bus service would be a viable option. Holyhead to Harwich is possible. Particulay if one was to partner with StenaLine. I think also connections fromm Holyhead or Pembroke ports to Portsmouth are an idea.

It would throw the challenge down of why a customer can't book a straight through ticket, why their connections are rubbish, etc. It's amazing what a simple change in mindset can achieve, by putting yourself in the position of the customer.

* Now that can be a double-edged sword. If our demand, (in this case for a co-ordinated port to port service), wasn't popular enough, the chances of improvements would be slim. However at least by capturing genuine demand, we'd know that and would find it easier to accept when presented by such data. However we might still get benefits from (say) an understanding that there was sufficient demand to improve cross-country services.
I have considered contacting people within the transport companies and ask if it were a possibility to improve service. I imagine a huge part of the problem is that people wishing to surface travel as we do, are very few and far between. So the profit margins are not greatly affected if the service doesn't improve. Most people are happy to endure air-travel.
 

drummer

10+ Posts
p.s. it certainly would make sense to plan airports and ports to be close to each other, allowing dual use of transport links to the nearest city and elsewhere. I know of few such places, perhaps as an airport near a port may have been viewed as competition, or the land simply not available due to to port expanding.
Yes, there is certainly a 'me fein' approach to planning. In Dublin, the Dublin Bus services continue to compete with the relatively new tramlines. If I were in charge, I would amend the bus service to complement the tram, providing onward connections from key stops and locaitons.
 

drummer

10+ Posts
Hello drummer -
I can't really be of help, but as Ian mentioned, you have brought up an interesting perspective.
Is it OK to ask if the reasons against flying are personal, environmental, or anything else? And what is your opinion about driving (including a rental), or perhaps driving with other people so that the driving and costs can be shared?
The fact that public transportation in many "modern" countries does not serve their citizens optimally is unfortunate indeed.
My reasons against flying are personal. I find it frustrating and anxiety-triggering. For a 90min flight, one must:
  • depart home 1hour in advance.
  • be at the airport 2hours ahead of departure.
  • show boarding pass / passport.
  • submit to liquid restrictions etc.
  • wait for gate announcement.
  • go to gate to wait for a further period of time.
  • show passport / boading pass.
  • queue to board plane.
  • show boarding pass again.
  • find seat.
  • wrestle with someone elses oversized luggage to fit my small backpack.
  • take my seat.
  • sit back, relax and enjoy the journey.
  • wait to reach runway.
  • sit up straight and pay attention.
  • don't remove seatbelt or recline seat for the next half hour.
  • relax and try to restrain your elbows within the undersized seat.
  • try to doze whilst the crew pedal merchandise and beverages.
  • finally relax.
  • sit up and stop relaxing.
  • get off the plane whenever they decide to open the doors.
  • follow labyrinth through airport.
  • find exit and arrive at destination.
Wheras a 6hour train / bus journey: (Or even an 18hour ferry), involves:
  • depart home.
  • arrive 90 mins prior to departure for ferry, 10 mins for train or bus.
  • show ticket.
  • board train, bus, ferry.
  • depart.
  • relax.
  • arrive.
  • disembark.
  • show passport, perhaps.
We have and do drive sometimes. However, that is usually just ont he motorbike. Taking a car to Britain or mainland is pricey. It's cheaper to rent. Which in itself is problematic.

Car sharing is not viable.
  • Where can I find someone willing to share their car between Holyhead and Harwich.
  • Does this person smell ?
  • Do they smoke ?
 

drummer

10+ Posts
Our situation is different from yours because we are closer to the continent.
I think your situation is different because of your proximity to the mainland, but also due to the population density. Clearly there is warranted demand for several train and ferry services, several times a day.

There are only about 4 train services per day, betwen Dublin and Cork. So imagine the frequency between lesser / smaller towns and cities.

I’ve read about ferries from Ireland that bypass the UK and go straight to the EU. Are these a possibility?
Ferries from Ireland are in fact barely leave the EU. Yes they are a possibility but not as viable.

The two issues are that:
if you wish to arrive on the mainland on a given day, you must depart the previous day. The minimum ferry journey is about 18hours. Which is enjoyable in itself, but can hamper plans regarding leave from work, etc.

the schedules tend to be every second day.
  • Stena and Irish only sail to France Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun.
  • Brittany once or twice per week.
  • DFDS, are every other day too.
Then upon arrival in France, onward travel is not so bad, but still somewhat stifled in it's connectivity.

Furthermore DFDS do not take foot passengers.
 

joe

1000+ Posts
My reasons against flying are personal. I find it frustrating and anxiety-triggering. For a 90min flight, one must:
Thanks for the reply.
I would think that a belief that "a balance must be struck" would include an occasional flight, but you have made clear why flying is a major nuisance for you. Good luck with the trip.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
if you wish to arrive on the mainland on a given day, you must depart the previous day. The minimum ferry journey is about 18hours.
I was thinking they must be long ferry rides. Even here it is overnight from Plymouth to Roscoff in Brittany. And from Poole to Malo you have to change ferries in Jersey or Guernsey, sometimes with a long wait. But at least Brittany Ferries allow foot passengers. I think they run one from Cork to Roscoff. That part of Brittany is very nice.
 

drummer

10+ Posts
Thanks for the reply.
I would think that a belief that "a balance must be struck" would include an occasional flight, but you have made clear why flying is a major nuisance for you. Good luck with the trip.
Yes. We do fly occasionally. We flew to Amsterdam last year and returned via Britain.
Similarly, we are considering flying home for this next trip.
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
I have to agree. We have used Cork airport which tends to me a more pleasant experience. However, the issue is the lack of connectivity. Arriving, it involves a taxi to the city, to be left waiting on a dank and dark riverside for an hour or so to catch a bus to Dublin.
Previous pleasant experiences with small airports though, are Almeria, Beziers and Koh Samui.


We have similar issues here. The train to Rosslare arrives minutes after the ferry to France departs. The next available is hours later.


Actually, there is also Citylink, which I think is part of the same group as Megabus. They connect Glasgow city to Cairnryan ferryport.

And Hannons.
They have a reasonable service from Glasgow to Belfast. It's a straight through service. It would be nice if they could extend this to Dublin though.


You mean 'plane stupid' ?


I have wondered if a mini-bus service would be a viable option. Holyhead to Harwich is possible. Particulay if one was to partner with StenaLine. I think also connections fromm Holyhead or Pembroke ports to Portsmouth are an idea.


I have considered contacting people within the transport companies and ask if it were a possibility to improve service. I imagine a huge part of the problem is that people wishing to surface travel as we do, are very few and far between. So the profit margins are not greatly affected if the service doesn't improve. Most people are happy to endure air-travel.
I had a good chuckle at the 'plane stupid' pun. Very good indeed !
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
I think your situation is different because of your proximity to the mainland, but also due to the population density. Clearly there is warranted demand for several train and ferry services, several times a day.

There are only about 4 train services per day, betwen Dublin and Cork. So imagine the frequency between lesser / smaller towns and cities.


Ferries from Ireland are in fact barely leave the EU. Yes they are a possibility but not as viable.

The two issues are that:
if you wish to arrive on the mainland on a given day, you must depart the previous day. The minimum ferry journey is about 18hours. Which is enjoyable in itself, but can hamper plans regarding leave from work, etc.

the schedules tend to be every second day.
  • Stena and Irish only sail to France Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun.
  • Brittany once or twice per week.
  • DFDS, are every other day too.
Then upon arrival in France, onward travel is not so bad, but still somewhat stifled in it's connectivity.

Furthermore DFDS do not take foot passengers.
This does strike me though as the most appealing alternative. I once went on cricket tour to to Holland and the ferry journey in either direction was 8 hours either way. I got to go for a swim, have something to eat, have a little nap and also learnt (the basics of) how to play Bridge! I could also have gambled in the casino, watched movies, danced in the 'Johnny Walker' disco (don't ask!), or other things I was unaware of. Whilst the thought of a cruise holiday would fill me with dread, as an alternative to airport hell, an 18 hour trip in which I could also get some sleep in would appeal.

I wonder whether Brexit might increase demand for such services, potentially leading to faster ships being commissioned. As mere individuals there are plus-sides, of more seamless border control, of full freedom to take/bring back goods. However maybe there's also strong appeal for businesses / logistics companies, being able to by-pass the still onerous red-tape (and associated costs) that was introduced with Brexit.
 
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drummer

10+ Posts
I wonder whether Brexit might increase demand for such services, potentially leading to faster ships being commissioned. As mere individuals there are plus-sides, of more seamless border control, of full freedom to take/bring back goods. However maybe there's also strong appeal for businesses / logistics companies, being able to by-pass the still onerous red-tape (and associated costs) that was introduced with Brexit.
This seems to be already happening.

This report is from 2years ago.
And this year:
  • Stena have added another ship to the Rosslare-Cherbourg route.
  • Brittany have introduced Rosslare-LeHavre route and reintroduced foot passenger service to Bilbao.
  • DFDS are trialling passenger service Rosslare-Dunkerque.
 

joe

1000+ Posts
By complete coincidence, I ran across the following site, might be relevant to this thread. Applies to UK to Europe travelers, from what I read...
Actually ran across this in The Guardian, in a small blurb describing "how to be a good tourist" - which can certainly resonate with slow travel:

st2.png
 
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Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
Picking up on the "treating somebody else's home with respect" part, I am always immensely amazed, yet honoured when encountering Italian hospitality. The principle was that a guest from elsewhere was an honour to receive, and even a complete stranger may be afforded this.

It's not extremely common for a mere tourist to be the recipient of this, but away from the locations where tourists are common, it becomes more likely. On one remarkable day we visited a winery (Drei Dona in the hamlet of Predappio) and were given two mature bottles from the cellar for merely choosing to walk the ~ 2km from the bus stop to the winery (on a lovely warm but not hot day), when they would have happily driven there to pick us up, and bear in mind that a few minutes before we arrived, a lorry had reversed into the winery building causing significant damage to it, so thi is the kind act of someone who has very recently been very upset. Then on leaving the winery, we took their recommendation to grab lunch at the local trattoria. They said it was nothing fancy, but (with a wink) they make their own pasta, which was indeed excellent. As we're about to walk in, two elderly gentlemen ask us if we'd like to join them for lunch, and we agree. Their company was great, even if they did that Emilia-Romagnan thing of topping up the red wine glass with water! One of them excuses himself from the table, presumably to go to the toilet, but no, he's only gone and paid for everything!!! They then offered to show us their (nearby town) and we stop for a coffee and gelato. Much to his dismay, I repeated the trick on him by paying for them, a small way of saying thankyou for such generosity.

Nothing has ever quite got to that level before or since, but away from the mass tourism trail, little acts of generosity are indeed to be found. Stay a little longer in one place, and start to get to know people, and I daresay you'll see more.
 

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