The Vibe from Abroad: Trains, planes and automobiles

A Happy New Year from the frozen north, as we enter a third week of sub-zero temperatures in what is being proudly hailed as the coldest winter in 30 years. On a personal level, I really don’t mind as this is “proper” winter weather, not the grey damp that this season usually brings.

On a professional level, travel, and just how awful it can be when things don’t go according to plan, has been on my mind. This festive season Santa could have brought you an extended holiday on far-off shores as a result of your travel company going into administration; an overnight stay on the M20 motorway; or having to buy a duplicate set of plane tickets.

At this time of year, more than five million people are on the move, trying to get somewhere warm; to be with family; far from the in-laws; or to indulge in winter sports. 

Arriving at your departure point should be straightforward, if not a bit fraught; but when you add in terrible weather, things are just bound to go wrong. To put travel woes in perspective, this is a country where transport companies blame the “wrong kind of snow” for travel chaos, so when we have “real” weather, the wheels just fall off.

This year, the travelling public has faced some challenges; including being stuck aboard Eurostar trains in the Channel Tunnel for 12 hours with minimal assistance; the knock-on delays went on for a week afterwards. The 12-day British Airways cabin crew strike was ruled illegal, but did not prevent disruption for those passengers who booked alternative travel only to have their flights re-instated. The UK border staff strike at the Calais resulted in 40-mile traffic jams into Dover; airports up and down the country closing and countless flights cancelled or delayed. Some major roads weren’t gritted, which meant that travellers who did get stuck remained so for 12 hours or longer.

This year we have had travel disruption by the bucket load, and I believe the effect will be a re-adjustment of our tolerance levels. We should also probably adjust future expectations of travel experiences to be more realistic.  We have had it too easy, and with ever greater numbers of Britons wanting to be somewhere else, perhaps we will be thinking long and hard about the next festive travel plans; do we stick with travelling from – 4°C to – 2°C or can we risk -4°C to 35°C?

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