Luxury train journeys tend to be near the top of many couples’ travel bucket lists when planning their dream wedding anniversary getaway. Even those of us who have watched Murder on the Orient Express countless times remain more enthralled by the iconic train’s sybaritric opulence than deterred by the potential for sinister intrigue in its compartments.
Unfortunately, restrictions due to COVID-19 have forced people to put any plans for a rail trip – a la Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot – on hold for the time being. They have also, to some extent, thwarted the EU’s plans in 2021 for a grand celebration of the “European Year of the Rail”, although the initiative still has a noble objective beyond simply sipping French Champagne in a wood-panelled, chandeliered dining room on wheels.
European Year of Rail
The European Commission had planned a full year of events and activities to highlight the benefits of rail as a sustainable, smart and safe means of transport, to encourage the use of rail by both citizens and businesses, and to contribute to the EU Green Deal goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.
“Our future mobility needs to be sustainable, safe, comfortable and affordable,” said European commissioner for transport Adina Vălean when launching the initiative. “Rail offers all of that and much more! The European Year of Rail gives us the opportunity to re-discover this mode of transport. Through a variety of actions, we will use this occasion to help rail realise its full potential.”
In spite of ongoing restrictions limiting train travel this year, the EU has still been able to highlight “the many dimensions of rail – from Europe’s world-leading, innovative rail industry to rail’s role in European culture and heritage, its importance for connecting regions, people and businesses, its part in sustainable tourism, as well as its involvement in the EU’s relations with neighbouring countries, for example”.
Scenic Rail Britain
Fortunately, wedding anniversary couples in the UK still have the option of enjoying the pleasures of “steaming” through the countryside in style – or at least making future plans.
An excellent starting point is the Scenic Rail Britain website, set up by Community Rail Network, a membership body “supporting community-based groups and partnerships that connect their community with their railway and deliver social benefit”.
According to the organisation, the aim of Scenic Rail Britain is “to help tourists, day-trippers and families, travelling from near and far, to access the country’s hidden gems, while travelling sustainably and avoiding the stresses of driving.
“At Community Rail Network, we see the lovely sights that community railways have to offer every day. We want to share that with more people, and promote these amazing railway lines, which form such an important part of our heritage.”
In addition to providing practical information (including advance tickets and railcards, sample itineraries, and a map of community railway lines organised by region and theme), the campaign also has an important message aimed at protecting the countryside and helping communities benefit as much as possible from tourism.
“Many beautiful parts of the UK suffer traffic and pollution problems. Travelling by car adds to this, as well as meaning that you risk spending your trip stuck in jams and feeling stressed. By getting around by train, you reduce your carbon footprint, and can sit back and relax.”
Earlier this year, Scenic Rail Britain suggested “7 scenic railways to add to your post-lockdown adventure list”, covering days out, short breaks and longer holiday stays – and showcasing “some of our favourite scenic railways from across Britain”.
Elsewhere, the website covers a diverse and extensive array of rail travel options, including:
- Coastal – to experience the British coast “like never before.
- Epic landscapes – featuring lines that will “take your breath away”.
- Historic interest – taking a journey back in time.
- Picturesque countryside – discovering charming towns, attractive villages and traditional British landscapes.
They also cover all corners of the UK, from North West, Yorkshire and North East, East, South West, Midlands and South East to Wales and Scotland.
Main photo (and top): Cumbrian Coast Line – Courtesy of Community Rail Cumbria
Other photos (top to bottom):
- Arun Valley Line – Courtesy of Southeast Communities Rail Partnership
- Tamar Valley Line – Courtesy of Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership
- Heart of Wales Line – Courtesy of Heart of Wales Railway Development Company
- Highland Main Line – Courtesy of Jules Akel
- Hope Valley Line – Courtesy of High Peak & Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership
- Bittern Line – Courtesy of Ian Dinmore