Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who are these High-Speed Rail customers?

For convenience, I've put some photos from this article at the bottom.  

This article, from the Australian Business Traveller, does a review of the Eurostar Business Lounge in St. Pancras Station, London.  Perhaps some of you are familiar with such lounges at airports, especially if you are a professional frequent flyer.

Very fancy indeed.  Our point here is to illustrate just who the high-speed rail passengers from London to Brussels and Paris are. And, by inference, who all the high-speed rail travellers are, elsewhere in the world.  And, please understand, that the Los Angeles Union Station and, presumably the TransBay Terminal in San Francisco will have such lounges as well.

Then, you have to ask who paid for them?  If our California train requires subsidies to operate, wouldn't that also be true of these lounges? Aren't these an integral part of the "infrastructure?"

We have repeatedly insisted that HSR is for the affluent. That the ticket prices are the most expensive train tickets available.  Here, in this article is a kind of indirect confirmation.  And, we are all expected to support this train system with our dollars.  We are told that it's good for the economy.  Who's economy are the rail advocates talking about?

Are you angry yet?  I am.

Review: Eurostar Business Premier Lounge, London
By David Flynn     
As high-speed rail increasingly becomes a true alternative to flying for the business traveller, part of the competitive equation is a business lounge.

On a recent visit to London Australian Business Traveller checked out Eurostar’s Business Premier Lounge at St Pancras International Station, which is the London end of the dedicated Eurostar High Speed 1 line between the UK, Paris and Brussels.

Location & impressions
The Business Premier Lounge is tucked away in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it corner of St Pancras International Station: head through the premium security lane and passport control desk, then turn right. Even the welcome desk and entrance to the lounge aren't glaringly obvious.

The lounge itself is a long and relatively narrow split-level affair with just about everything you’d want to while away the time waiting for your train.

Add a bunch of business travellers and things can fill up pretty quickly.

Not that you’ll have long to wait in the lounge. Eurostar services from London generally depart every half hour in peak times and on average each hour outside that.

And with business class travellers and Eurostar Carte Blanche members able to check in as late as 10 minutes before departure (and a meagre 30 minutes for everyone else), plus far less arduous security than airports, the lounge is more for comfortably cooling your heels than killing the hours you’d have to spare at an airport.

The lower and upper levels of the Business Premier lounge are pretty much identical in their facilities – including food and drink, magazines and newspapers plus plenty of comfortable chairs, and tall tables adjacent to the bar and drinks area.

Upstairs tends to be quieter because very short-stay travellers stay on the ground level where they can easily zip out to the trains.

(Oh, and upstairs also has these decidedly funky and seemingly not-often-used chairs right down the end.)

Lounge entry is included in all Eurostar Business Premier class fares, and it’s one of the key differentiators between Business Premier and Standard Premier (in airline terms, think ‘business class’ vs ‘premium economy’).

Regular business travellers can also gain lounge access when they hit the Carte Blanche tier of the Eurostar Frequent Traveller program.

However, lounge access is also a little-known perk of holding an American Express Platinum or Centurion card, so even if you’re travelling in Standard ‘economy’ class you can still rest up in the Business Premier lounge.

Food and drink at Eurostar’s Business Premier lounge is a pretty straightforward and largely self-service affair designed for pre-travel to snacking.

After all, Business Premier passengers get a full meal on board, as well as there being a dining car on the Eurostar train and plenty of grab-and-go eateries at St Pancras Station itself.

You’ll find breakfast cereals in the morning plus fresh sandwiches and rolls, pastries, fruit, biscuits and other nibblies.

There's also an ample variety of soft drinks, wine and beer to wet the whistle.

Comfortable chairs with plentiful AC sockets plus free wi-fi and a fairly quiet environment (if you stay away from the coffee machines) set the scene for some last-minute work before your trip.

(And you can of course continue tapping away on your laptop all through the journey. That’s another point in the train-vs-plane stakes – there’s no 30+ minute period of ‘please switch of all electronic devices’).

Note the inclusion of both UK and European power sockets on the desks.

And if your gadget de jour is running low on de juice, take advantage of the handy recharge station – with lockable doors for each compartment – on the lounge's ground floor.

There are also several meeting areas where you can compare notes with colleagues.

Eurostar's St Pancras business lounge pretty much ticks every box when it comes to a relatively short-stay lounge.

In fact, as trains begin boarding 20 minutes before departure, you may well arrive at the station and head straight to your seat. (That’s one of the ways travelling by Eurostar rates so far down on the hassle-o-meter compared to flying) – so lounge access isn't a must-have for your business trip by train.

There are many other photos in the article found under the URL provided above.
High-Speed Rail is the "good life."  There should be no objection to this; the objection is when the taxpayers are paying for the well to do to live like this. And, yes, most HSR systems around the world compartmentalize classes, first class, business class, coach.
However, even the least expensive coach tickets cost more than regular train tickets.


1 comment:

Soccer Dad said...

this is a really alogical blog post
you don't seem to understand that it is ok if there are diff ticket prices, and that if some people are willing to pay premium prices, the train authority will provide services.
what is the problem with that ?
like most zealots you overdo you case with to many words; you remind me of R Stallman's argument about why "linux" should be called "GNU/linux".
I'm not sure where I sit on this, but you don't help yourself by being so zealous;not to mention, most of the $ for the opposition is coming from wealthy people in places like menlo park, nothing byt nimybism