A more civilised way of business travel

Selfie in snowy Geneva.

Written by:
Ebba Malmqvist, Associate professor, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

In recent years, I have travelled a lot by train across Europe for work. I almost always avoid flying. In the post-pandemic era, we know that many on-site meetings are unnecessary and presentations can just as easily be listened to at home, but sometimes you have to meet and I try to choose the train.

A couple of times a year I have to go to Geneva to attend meetings on the UN Air Convention. A normal train journey starts with an afternoon train to Copenhagen with a thermos of tea and fruit, maybe some bread and cheese. It used to be possible to eat on the ferry between Copenhagen and Hamburg, but now it is a detour around Denmark while the tunnel is being built. So I am prepared for about 5 hours on the train to Hamburg. The wonderful thing is that you only have to arrive 15 minutes before departure, 30 minutes if you are worried and want some margins. But no long queues to get your bags scanned and no waiting at expensive airports. You just get on when the train arrives.

Danish trains are comfortable and it’s easy to work on them, I usually have a few articles printed out if I get tired of the screen. But I usually manage to write a lot in five hours, uninterrupted writing time is a luxury when you are used to having many commitments. Trains are not cramped sardine cans, there is plenty of room for computers and legs. There are also quiet compartments where you can work in peace and quiet.

Satisfied with all the texts, I arrive in Hamburg around eight o’clock, with plenty of time for dinner and a walk, my bag safely locked away at the station. As bedtime approaches, I board the Hamburg-Basel night train and fall asleep to the shaking of the carriages. In the morning, breakfast is served by the train host, and you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful Alps, still a little white on the peaks. Once you’ve had your breakfast, it’s time to get off and change trains for Geneva. Swiss trains have restaurant cars where you can enjoy a good cappuccino in a porcelain cup while taking in the views of the Alps and valleys. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in the scenery, I only have time to check the morning’s mailbox and the day’s meeting agenda before arriving in the middle of the city. No transfer buses, long corridors, baggage carousels or queues to get into the city, but you arrive in the middle of the city, ready for the day’s meetings.  

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