European Train Travel Across Borders: Jane’s Experience Under the Volcanic Ash

Jane has very kindly shared her journey from Milan to Leeds during the Volcanic Ash airspace shut-down where she used all available means of transport to get her back to the UK…

My Situation

By Sunday night we new that my flight had been cancelled and that the next flight would be on Wednesday, so I had to start thinking about how else I was going to get back.  I had originally flown into Bergamo airport which is west of Milan.  I had a couple of hours before I was to be in Como for my B&B at 8:00.  Mark had done some extensive research for me and found that there were no flights back to Europe until the following Wednesday, which I’m sure my work wouldn’t be happy about.  All the trains were full going to Calais in France and from what I had overheard at the station on Saturday, getting a ferry back to England was harder even if you made it as far as Paris.

As I have a friend in Utrecht combining my trip with this now made sense.

My Journey

To book a train from Milan to Amsterdam was very expensive and very difficult on the internet as you had to pick up the tickets from Holland. Again thanks to Mark’s premium research, a plan was hatched to get just into Switzerland and then get a Swiss train across to Zurich, then cross into Germany and do the same from there.

One of the reasons it was difficult to book trains from Italy was that their computer system isn’t integrated into the European one, so they only have access to certain seats.  Another of the Italian students who spent some time in NZ, lives near the Swiss border in Como, so Anna kindly arranged for me to stay there.

Sara dropped me at Como station to get the train one stop into Switzerland at Chiasso.  I was on a train from Chiasso to Zurich by 7:25. The journey through the Alps was lovely although there was only a small amount of snow. I arrived in Zurich at about 11:30am and used their premium ticket queuing system which allowed me to sit in a nice seat and wait for my number to be called. Much preferable to standing in a queue. I ended up booking a night train straight to Utrecht rather than making an additional stop in Germany. It made no price difference. The train didn’t leave until 20:40 at night so I had the whole day to explore Zurich.

After meeting a friend in Utrecht I made my way to Leiden where I stayed the night. Next I had to get to Hoek van Holland where my ferry would leave to sail to Harwich (UK).  In the morning I was driven to Delft where I got to the station early but the train was delayed by 4 minutes which meant that I in turn missed my connecting train. I had to wait 1/2 hour for the next one.  I was lucky I had given myself plenty of time.

I was able to board the ferry 1.5 hours before it left.  The ferry crossing was £34 because it was a day sailing and you didn’t have to get a bunk which cost and extra £84 or so pounds. This is compulsory if you take a night crossing.

As it is very difficult to get across England by public transport, my Boyfriend got a hire car and drove down to meet me. The cost of this wasn’t much extra than about the 4 trains and 8 hours travelling if I had to take public transport.

Travelling in a radial direction from London or up and down the country is relatively easy, if not ridiculously expensive unless you spend ½ hour on the internet figuring out the best route.  But have you ever tried to get from Stansted airport to Leeds for example! 4 different trains 4 different operators about 8 hours…

…NO thanks!

Jane’s amazing journey can be explored on Google Maps here!

Were you caught up in the Volcanic Ash airspace shutdown? If so, get in touch to share your journey experience and help others learn from your tips and advice.

*** The views and opinions shared by Community users are not necessarily those of Sight of the Navigator.  ***

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