Wed, Jun 19 2013
Guardian journalist Leo Hickman, author of green-living bible/bestseller A Life Stripped Bare, was trying to make a point about sustainable transport when he jumped on the train to Italy for his annual holiday. Travelling along were his wife and one-year-old daughter. This made a lot of people think "if they can do it, I can do it", which of course was the whole point.
Currently, trains (and ships, but let's leave those aside for now) are the cleanest form of public transport. A train uses as much fuel as a bus, but carries 300 as opposed to 30 people. A comfortable, well-developed rail network is key if we are to have sustainable forms of mass transport. Strangely enough, Bulgaria may lag behind in carriages and service, but has a pretty impressive rail network. Neighbouring Greece, for instance, has only one main line - that line crosses the country from north to south, but the rest is narrow-gage trains on the Peloponnesus.
Travelling on Bulgarian trains is a bit of a hit and miss. You may find yourself sitting in first-class comfort (on the Desiro trains that run from Sofia to Kuystendil, for example) or in one of those ancient green seater carriages that have been around for more than most of us would like to remember. And then there is a lot that is in between and is not so bad, really, not bad enough to stop you from having a clean environmental conscience. I always think of Leo Hickman, wife and baby in tow, when boarding trains, here or abroad.
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