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RDS has organised group visits by train to the Continent since the opening of the Channel Tunnel three years ago.
The latest such visit was to Strasbourg in eastern France, with 16 members leaving London Waterloo on the 10.23 Eurostar on 1 October for a five-day trip.
A swift run in a well-filled train brought us to a Paris in which, because of a smog alert, only cars with registration plates ending in uneven numbers were allowed to operate on that day. In compensation, public transport was made free throughout the city, and the surrounding Ile de France region, for the day.
Four hours by express train brought us to Strasbourg, where we were booked into an hotel on the impressive station square. On the next two days, members enjoyed guided tours of the European Parliament and the depot of the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois.
At the latter we were told about the well-designed tramway opened across the city in 1994, with its Derby-built vehicles, and plans for a second line to be open by the end of the year 2000.
An informal meeting, with excellent Alsace wine, was held with representatives of local public transport users' organisations. Several members also made the journey south to Mulhouse, to visit the French National Railway Museum. We also found day ranger tickets costing just over £2 very good value as they gave unlimited travel on the Strasbourg trams and buses.
Thirteen members of the party used a group ticket to make a day trip to the German city of Karlsruhe, an hour's journey north-east of Strasbourg.
Armed with a day ranger ticket costing just over £5, we sampled the city's extensive tramway network, including some dual-voltage vehicles which, since 1992, have run on to the Deutsche Bahn conventional railway eastward through the hills to Bretten - a small town where we enjoyed a meal in a local hostelry.
We returned to the United Kingdom with lasting memories of what is being done in two of our European neighbour countries to win passengers from road to rail. A full report of the visit has been compiled and is obtainable at £2 (post free) from RDS General Secretary Trevor Garrod, 15 Clapham Road, Lowestoft NR32 1RQ (cheques payable to Railway Development Society).
The next trip will be to the Netherlands.
Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.
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