DAVID’S (ALMOST) ALWAYS ON A TRAIN…
My “train obsession” (of sorts) began in Switzerland, where I switched from the school bus to public transport in 5th grade. When I picked a more challenging high school, I made sure to get an annual pass for all of Switzerland — so I can travel from home to school during the week, and around the country over weekends.
In China, I did not get onboard a train until HSR arrived. On 01 August 2008, Train C2209 whisked me away from Beijing South (Beijingnan) station to Tianjin, completing a 120 km (75 mi) trek in under 30 minutes. (Top speed was 348 km/h, or 217 mph.) This being even faster than my fastest on a German Autobahn, I decided to transfer permanently to the rails. Here in London, I now hold an Annual Gold Card (season ticket) valid across much of Greater London, and live 15 minutes away on foot from two stations with National Rail services.
Travelling by train is much more pleasant than driving. Instead of worrying about going too close to the speed limit, or being stuck in a traffic jam (made worse if you’re piloting a manual car), I’m onboard and can be as productive as ever. Typing away whilst on the go, impossible for drivers, becomes super productive on a table on trains. Or at times I can just relax and read away.
I’ve been involved with trains in more ways than one: I now author new recommended standards for English signage across the Chinese national railway network, and I’m also visible as one of the more influential, independent voices of the Chinese rail system. Sina Weibo gave me the coveted “Publicly Verified Account Status” in 2011 by recognising me as a “HSR expert” (updated in 2013 to columnist, Everyday Rail English).
Despite the terrible Wenzhou tragedy closer to home (here in China), I’m not getting off the rails any time soon. The reason is simple, and very European: People in Europe, especially in countries like Switzerland, do a lot of travelling by train (especially when it comes to the mileage). I’ve also expanded my mileage of over 200,000 km across 15 countries and territories in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. See you onboard!