Getting to the Railway Station
Today I am on my way to Luxembourg for work. As you may already have guessed, I have this little idea in my head to try to use the train as much as possible this year and see how it goes. Today I am on my way to Luxembourg. There are no flights between Basel and Luxembourg, so the train is really a no brainer. There are no direct trains either, but there is a convenient connection via Mulhouse, with only ten minutes to wait. So that is what I am doing.
The regional or commuter trains to France depart from the French sector of the main railway station in Basel. The hall in the picture below connects the Swiss station to the French sector.
In the old days, passengers used to have to go through customs and immigration to access the plattforms, which was done in the cavernous hall in the picture below. Since Schengen, the ugly offices that used to occupy the space have been removed, and passengers can move freely between the two sectors.
SNCF TER Grand Est, First Class: Basel SNCF to Mulhouse
For the first leg of my journey, I take a local express train bound for Strasbourg. The journey to Mulhouse takes 23 minutes, with the train only stopping once in St. Louis on the way.
There is only one First Class coach on the train, and five Second Class coaches.
The cabin of the First Class carriage is very old school. I mean, this thing even still has curtains! The seats are plush and soft, and the stripe design is kind of retro and very funky!
My only grippe is that the seat pitch is not very generous. But it does not really matter. The train is nearly empty anyway.
Transfer in Mulhouse
I know I say this everytime I am here, but good heavens! The station in Mulhouse is just so, so ugly. It looks like it was last updated in the sixties, when it was molded out of a large, unsightly blob of concrete. But it does not matter. I am only changing trains here.
TGV Inoui, First Class: Mulhouse to Luxembourg.
At 11:21 the mighty TGV from Montpelier pulls into Mulhouse station, and as usual I am smitten by how sleek the train looks. I am seated in coach 11, which is right behind the engine in the direction of travel. There are three First Class coaches, which are separated from Second Class by the dining car.
I am seat on 112, which is on the upper deck, at the very front of the coach. Behind me is only the luggage storage area. 112 faces backwards on this journey.
The seats are mostly in what I call an airplane configuration, with twin seats on one side, and single seats on the other side of the aisle. Half the seats face the rear, whereas the other half face forwards.
Leg space is excellent, and the recline is also exceptionally good. The seatback is reclined electrically, using a button in the arm rest.
The tray table is large enogh to place a laptop, the power socket is conveniently located right next to the unfolded tray table.
The train continues from Mulhouse to Colmar, Strasbourg, Metz Ville and Thionville. It is nearly full up until Strasbourg, where most people alight, but hardly any new passengers board. By the time the train is on its last sector from Thionville to Luxembourg there is just me and another passenger in the entire coach.
At Luxembourg station I change to a local train for one stop, to Pfaffendal. This train seriously looks like it belongs in a museum.
At Paffendal I alight and take the escalator one floor up to the station of the funicular railway that takes you up onto the Kirchberg plateau, where all the offices are.
And then from there I take the tram for one stop to get to my hotel.
I arrive at the hotel just before 15:00. The journey has taken me four hours and 15 minutes door to door, which is slightly less than it would have taken me by air. It is certainly a lot cheaper than flying though, especially given that the level of comfort and private space on the TGV is unrivalled by any bog standard European short-haul airplane seat! However, The down side is that trains are infrequent. As a result, I will have to spend an extra night in Luxembourg simply to catch a train in the morning.