DER Travel's Wesner: Why rail will rule as option in Europe

NEW YORK -- Following are highlights from a speech on rail travel given by Heinz Wesner, president of DER Travel in Chicago, at Travel Weekly's Europe 2000 conference, held on Nov. 30 at the Marriott Marquis here.

There are many reasons the train is -- and definitely will be in the future -the best mode of transportation in Europe:

  • Connecting major European cities by high-speed rail makes trips shorter and more convenient. For example, in only one year, train rides from Frankfurt to Cologne will take less than one hour, compared to two hours today.
  • The travel time by train between the major airports in Britain, the Benelux countries, France and Germany will be almost cut in half by the end of next year due to advancements in high-speed rail.

    Eurostars, ICEs, TGVs and other existing technical rail wonders will become even faster, safer and more comfortable.

  • From city to city most train stations are very close to main hotels, business centers, cultural sites and tourist attractions.
  • The frequency of train services, especially between cities that are two to three hours apart, is usually very high. Trains run every hour or in even shorter intervals.
  • Trains in Europe are running on time.
  • Whenever connections need to be made by train, they can be done reliably within minutes.
  • In many European countries, you'll find hub-and-spoke connections linking main lines conveniently to regional lines.
  • When traveling longer distances, overnight trains in Europe offer comfortable sleeping accommodations.
  • They leave late and arrive early to allow a full day of activities or business meetings on either end.

  • New luxury overnight services do exist on many routes, such as the hotel trains from Paris to Spain or in Germany, the Intercity Night Train and the City Night Line.
  • These trains feature hotel-room-like accommodations with amenities that usually cost less than their [hotel] counterparts.

  • You can watch the scenery, relax, walk around, have some food and meet other travelers while on a train. Try to do that in a car or in a plane.
  • First class seats are usually less crowded than second class -- and most rail passes available to Americans are first class.
  • Only severe weather conditions can change a train schedule, which is not true of travel by air or car or bus.
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