L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

03 March 2008 Blog Home : March 2008 : Permalink

Easyjet vs (Broken) Railways
My aged parents decided to take advanatge of the new higher speed Eurostar and take the train from their home in Frinton (for the incontinent) to visit us over the weekend. They left their home to catch the 8:48am train on Friday morning and arrived in Cannes where I picked them up at 22:44 that evening. Their journey down here was, as a modern newspaper might put it, a saga. Certainly, as you can tell by the times above, it seems to have lasted about as long as a saga.

Firstly their train from Frinton to London made it two stations to Thorpe before stopping permenantly because of a cracked rail on the next stretch of line. Then after station staff informing them that a bus would take them to Colchester (so all the passengers trouped into the carpark to wait for it) a train arrived for Colchester and they caught that instead.

Well after that they got to London OK but an hour later than expected. Fortunately they had considerable spare time in the schedule so that was OK. They made their way to St Pancras and caught the Eurostar. Swoosh. Public transportation that works.

Arrival Paris Gare du Nord. You have to buy an RER underground ticket to go the two stops to the Gare de Lyon for the TGVs heading south. In the UK these tickets are included in the rail fare but that isn't possible in France. So you have to buy the ticket. Which involves having some Euro cash handy. And figuring out how to operate a complicated machine. Or queueing up at a ticket counter.

Then there was the problem (according to my parents) of actually finding the RER lines. I've never done this so I can't comment but they had quite a journey apparently to get from the mainline station to the RER tracks and the path was not clearly signed. It is worth noting that my parents are quite well travelled and have successfully managed the public transit systems of Milan, Istambul and Israel in the last couple of years so if they say it was confusing I believe them.

At the Gare du Lyon it seems that some tracks have a platform either side - one for passengers and the other presumably for maintenance. If you don't pay close attention you can wander up the non passenger side quite some way before realizing that you can't open the doors to get into the train. As with getting to London bit it's a good thing my parents had plenty of time to cross Paris.

Still once on board it's a smooth journey to Cannes where I'm waiting to pick them up. I can't help but notice however that the train to Grasse (the last one of the night or last but one possibly with a long gap betwene trains) leaves just a minute or so after the TGV arrives. Only people who are in the right carriage and are world class sprinters can make it to that train. The line to Grasse is a dead end so it isn't as if delying that train by 5 minutes would make much difference.

My parents intend to return tomorrow. The local SNCF is on strike so they can't rely on it to get into Cannes again, also, probably, the roads will be fuller than usual because of all the commuters who can't take the train. Ditto busses.

Its at times like this when you realize that it actually makes more sense to fly via Easyjet. I think my parents will not be letting the train take the strain again.