Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

I write from Lausanne, where I'm visiting my homeopath, who, having cured me of my allergy to feathers, is now tackling my hay fever. I'm accompanied by S, having convinced him that he would enjoy a consultation, too. This is nice, as having a man-camel in tow means I can pack extra supplies.

If I have to carry my own bag, I'm a light packer. But if a man-camel is available, I will chuck in everything but the kitchen sink. This trip I've even remembered to include my Wi-Fi electromagnetic-smog repeller. Most of Switzerland is now Wi-Fi enabled – handy if you have the urge to check your emails in the middle of the street, but with more surveys on the dangers of electro-magnetic pollution (no letters, please), it's a convenience I can live without. It all weighs a ton, though, and my man-camel is in a real strop by the time we arrive.

One of the many benefits of rail travel is that the train brings you bang into the centre of a city. It's only short walk, admittedly up a very steep cobbled street, to our hotel. As S lugs my kitchen sink up the cobbles (hurry up, man!) I feel a (very) small twinge of guilt about all the stuff I've packed.

A few days in Switzerland soon calms his frazzled nerves and, after a fascinating consultation with the doctor, it's time to take the train home.

It's a shame so many people continue to take short-haul flights from the UK. The train is far more relaxing and for shorter distances, trains compare favourably with flying, time-wise, once you've factored in the waiting at the airport.

According to the anti-airport-expansion lobby group Hacan, more than a fifth of flights using the airport are to 12 destinations where there is already a viable rail alternative. If those slots were handed to long-haul flights, Heathrow could abandon its plans for a third runway. If the Government is really serious about cutting carbon emissions, it should make the train cheaper and reflect the true environmental impact of air travel by improvising VAT on domestic flights.

Although Lausanne is too far away to be on the top-10 list of short-haul journeys, the train still gives the plane a run for its money. Recently, I met a friend here who was flying. We left home at roughly the same time, and she arrived in Lausanne only two hours before me. While I was relaxed after a smooth journey, she was shaking with crossness after endless delays and having all her essential fluids confiscated. "What sort of bomb would I make with my Dr Hauschka eucalyptus foot-reviving deodorant?" she asked crossly.

No such paranoia when you let the train take the strain. And with train journeys to Europe set to get even speedier when the new terminal opens up in St Pancras next month, as well as emitting one-tenth of the CO2 of the plane, what's not to like?

www.railbookers.comwww.hacan.org.uk

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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