By Larry Romanoff, December 05, 2019
One of the great advantages of train travel compared to flying is the saving in wasted time. A flight in most any country normally involves a one-hour trip to the airport with a requirement to arrive at least 1.5 hours prior to departure. At the arrival end, there is always the seemingly long wait to deplane, the long walk to the baggage carousels or the exits, then the one hour or more trip downtown.
When we take into account the commute and the necessary pre-departure allowance for check-in and security clearance and the 2-Km walk to the departure gate, then the post-arrival delays and the commute downtown at our destination, trains are equal to flying in trips up to 1,200 or even 1,500 Kms, and much faster than flying for shorter trips. Not only much quicker, but less expensive than air travel. The frequency of departures, at least between major centers in China is astonishing, the Shanghai-Beijing route having some 75 or 80 HSR trains each way each day, often leaving only 10 minutes apart.
In China, the railway stations are downtown so the commute is minimal, one arriving at the station with luggage in hand only 20 or 30 minutes before departure. There is no ‘check-in’ process as with the airlines, only the usual security check and luggage scanners when entering the station where you can spend time in comfortable waiting rooms or simply find the correct platform and board your train. Even though many stations are huge, walking distances are normally much shorter than in most airports.
Another advantage of train travel is the considerable convenience and comfort, trains being much superior in both categories with an absence of pressure and time apprehension. Trains eliminate most unpleasant elements of air travel, with the attraction of being able to see the countryside; from a plane, we see nothing. On a plane, we are forced to adhere to a rigid schedule: the time for coffee or a meal, the time to close the window curtains and darken the cabin so the staff can rest. If the food cart is out, you cannot get up to walk around or go to the bathroom. Everything seems regulated and under pressure. Leaving your seat is often a major inconvenience. By contrast, on a train you are free to do as you please. Your luggage is accessible at any time, the food carts come by regularly, the dining car is always there, seats have twice the leg room, the aisles wide enough to accommodate passengers, everything much more relaxed, pleasant, and enjoyable.