A statistic in a media release from Destination NSW has given me cause for thought about train travel.
The peak tourism body for the Australian state of New South Wales revealed that 5.3 million international and domestic overnight and day-trip visitors used the train to travel in NSW during the year ending March 2017, up 4 per cent on the previous year.
NSW certainly has some great rail journeys — and it is not alone.
Around the world, new rail lines are being built both for high-speed passenger services and freight, and old ones are being revived for public transport and tourism purposes. Train travel, once thought of as a relic of a slower and more genteel, less frantic, past, is coming back big time! And here are some reasons why:
It’s efficient, (usually) reliable and convenient, and it’s more relaxing than driving. And railway stations tend to be at the centre of where it’s all happening (and, historically, where it all happened), rather than 50 kilometres away, where the airport is.
The price is right. Yes, some train journeys are expensive, especially in this age of low-cost air travel. But if you purchase in advance and take advantage of special offers, and take away the expense (and hassle) of getting to and from airports, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
You get a ground-level view as you travel to your destination, rattling past interesting terrain rather than flying above it and seeing only the clouds and the screen in front of you that’s designed to take your mind off the improbability of heavier-than-air flight.
The romance of rail is still palpable. You never know who you might meet on a train, and you have time to let your imagination go wild. Suddenly you are part of an Agatha Christie mystery, or a thrilling love story.
Trains offer great adventures. There are scheduled services that span continents, go up and down mountains, and across deserts, wild savannah plains and icy wastelands. And there are more to come: including a proposed 8,400-mile journey from Tokyo to London. Really, what’s not to love?