WHILE millions of travellers struggled to find an alternative to flying this week, Mark Smith savoured a return train journey from Croatia to London via Vienna, Cologne and Brussels.
It came as Smith’s 2010 edition of The Man In Seat 61 – a guide to bargain-priced rail travel across Europe – hit bookshops.
As seasoned fliers reconsidered their options when the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano caused havoc in the skies, Smith claimed train travel is getting better and easier all the time.
Improvements on the line to the Spanish port of Algeciras might mean travellers from London will soon get there in time to catch the last ferry across to Morocco.
He says: “To enjoy train travel you have to forget the ‘are we there yet?’ feeling you get in planes and cars and accept travel as a key part of the experience.
“Coming back from Zagreb this week, for instance, I read books, savoured fantastic views in the Austrian Alps, did my emails, rode on the famous ferris wheel in Vienna, climbed to the top of the Cathedral in Cologne in the 100 minutes I could spare between trains.”
Formerly a station manager at Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge in the early 1990s, Smith has become a cult figure among train enthusiasts.
His website attracts 850,000 enquiries a month and, aged 44, he has given up his day job to concentrate on telling people about the joys of rail travel.
He adds: “The great shutdown of air travel might make people see they have become over-reliant on planes.
“But rising demand for long-distance rail travel is driven by more substantial factors.
“Many people are largely fed up with the hassles of flying, being treated like a suspect on the ground and an infant in the air.
“And they are also keen to reduce their carbon footprint.”