Who wins in the battle of Train vs Plane?
- Train vs Plane? What the blazes is this?
- Off to St Pancras on the Early Train (Virgin Trains Birmingham to London Euston), St Pancras Departures Lounge
- Eurostar train 9114 London St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal
- A walk around Amsterdam
- Setting the timer off: Off to Amsterdam Schiphol
- A light bit of spotting at Amsterdam Schiphol
- British Airways Terraces Amsterdam Schiphol
- BA441 Amsterdam Schiphol to London Heathrow
- Into London, stopping the stopwatch and Chilterns home
- Who wins?
If we go by raw timings alone.. these are the final numbers:
These numbers however, should be taken with the largest lump of rock salt you can find. These times don’t include:
- Time waiting at St Pancras
- The delays on the train
- Time in the lounge
- The idiot choice of taking the Underground vs Heathrow Express (mainly as I was cheap)
- And the fact I started and stopped at different locations (give me that one please – I was knackered).
So my quick thoughts
For Centre-to-centre/point-to-point travel it cannot be beaten. The only airport in London that can remotely compete is London City airport as an outbound offering. Eurostar does not have a direct return service from Amsterdam to London (you need to take a Thalys service to Brussels, and change for a Eurostar service to London to allow security and immigration checks).
In terms of comfort – yes, the seats were a little firm, but you’ll have more legroom and width to spread out in than Eurobusiness, with power at seat and internet. And that frankly doesn’t exist on most options between London and Amsterdam on a plane.
In terms of the actual getting from A to B bit, it’s quicker. It’s also built for connections – so if you do have onwards connections to other places, the hubs are built for that. However, you have the pain of airport security, liquids restrictions and all the limitations that airplane travel bring – as well as getting to and from the airport.
All those minutes add up.
In terms of costs, it does vary. I could get lead-in seats for this service for £35 one-way and flights for £70 one-way in Eurotraveller. However, with yield management being the amazingly odd beast it is – finding those seats can be a challenge.
This is where the plane trounces Eurostar. Currently Eurostar operates two direct services a day between London and Amsterdam (there are additional options, but they involve changes at Brussels Midi).
- 8 departures from Heathrow
- 3 departures from Gatwick
- 4 departures from London City
And that’s not even considering the options that KLM or CityJet offer. Currently, Eurostar offers 2 direct and 4 indirect services a day. And that isn’t helped by the slow bit of track between Brussels and Rotterdam.
That and for business traffic, it would be hard to do a business day in Amsterdam – the journey is too long with an earliest of a 1pm arrival. Rotterdam is more business-friendly…but only by a hair.
Which would I choose?
It’s all time and where I need would judge what I take next time. Living in Birmingham, the numbers go heavily towards plane (least of all, it’s a 2 hour saving down to London and time to check in to Eurostar before I depart anywhere).
And depending how I needed to maximise my time, plane may help more than train.
However, when the trains work right – it works. And given the choice for such a short hop – I’d choose the train.
And considering there are options such as Eurostar rewards, it is possible to actually make Eurostar travel rewarding.
Will I do Train vs Plane again?
You bet! I’m looking at options for London – Paris, and London – Brussels in the future. I won’t be looking at UK domestic options (the issue of living in the middle of the country doesn’t help in these comparisons).
Travel doesn’t end for me – least of all there’s another trip I need to right about. And involves this.
Please join me for Donuts on the Mound 2: The second bite. Starting soon!
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