Sometimes Speed Just Slows You Down

Given a choice, most people traveling from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, England would choose to fly. A jet airplane is a more modern form of transportation and it’s certainly faster: 1.5 hours in the air vs. 5 hours on the rails. I chose the train.

Here’s why:

  1. If you fly, you’re asked to be at the airport two hours before departure. You can arrive at the train station and board the train literally minutes before it departs.
  2. If you fly and have more than three pieces of luggage (or even one large piece of luggage), you would need to check the luggage and pay for the service. The time to check luggage at Edinburgh airport is about 10 minutes. You will also need to go to baggage claim after your plane arrives. The typical time spent at Heathrow’s baggage claim is 15 to 20 minutes. There are no luggage restrictions for train travel.
  3. If you fly, you experience airport security, a process that, if you’re flying within the UK, will entail your picture being taken. It will also include strict limits on what you can carry within your carry-on luggage and on your person. You will have to produce identification and show your boarding pass to no less than two individuals. And you will need to remove your shoes, your belt and anything metal from your pockets before you walk through a scanner. There is no special security at the train station.
  4. On the plane, both take-off and landing is an instruction/procedure filled ordeal. On the train, you’re given about 5 minutes notice that it is about to enter a station. You don’t need to put your seat in the upright position, close and lock your food tray or buckle your seatbelt. You merely get up, gather your luggage, and get off.
  5. On the plane, you must turn off any electronic device with an on-off switch and keep it off until instructed otherwise. Roughly 20 minutes before landing, you will once again be instructed to turn off and put away your device(s). On the train, you can power-up any electronic device and leave it on throughout your journey. In first class you have easily accessible power outlets, free internet service and no restrictions (unless you’re in a “quiet carriage”) on using your mobile phone.
  6. Most airports are on the outskirts of towns and cities. Had I flown, an airport express bus from downtown Edinburgh to the airport would have cost £3.50 and taken 30 minutes. To get from Heathrow to my hotel in Central London, I would have had to board the Heathrow Express train to Paddington station and then take a cab from the station to the hotel. Cost of the Heathrow Express is £18 and the cab fare £15. Time to do it all: 45 minutes (counting on luck and not counting the time to collect my luggage). Most train stations are in the center of towns and cities. The taxi fare for me to go from my hotel to the main train station in Edinburgh was £4.65 and took 10 minutes. The taxi fare from King’s Cross train station to my hotel was £10 and took 12 minutes.
  7. The cost of a coach class plane ticket, ordered a week in advance, would have been more than the cost of the first class train ticket.

The jet airplane is a late 20th century transportation device. The train is a 19th century transportation device. Although the plane (even with all of the above considered) is faster, the train is more convenient and more comfortable.. And because on the train there are virtually no security announcements and searches or take-off and landing instructions/preparations – it’s easier to write, plan, converse, read, relax or sleep. And here’s the best part: you have time to think.

When it comes to activating your brilliance, sometimes speed just slows you down.

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One Comment

  1. Phil Clark says:

    I couldn’t agree more. This is a topic that is frequently debated within my family for edinburgh-london trips and with my organisation for london-paris trips (1hr flight vs eurostar). Thank you Chuck for articulating the train case so compellingly!

    Wishing slowing-down for speeding-up converts productive thinking!

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