By train to Lancaster

This is the first of two blog posts about my (Elina’s) trip to Lancaster in February 2020. This first blog post will mostly be a recount of the trip, but the next blog post will be a reflection on how academic travel might change when we fly less, and some lessons learned from doing this trip.

The background for this trip is that I was invited to be the external examiner at Kelly Widdicks’ Viva Voce. Since I have become more and more reluctant to travel by air plane, I decided to go there by train, but that entailed also to do some research in Lancaster, since I then could pay for the (probably considerably more expensive) trip through a research project. Travelling by train means longer travel time, and I then wanted to stay for a few days longer than just for the viva.

3f76c7f3-6f01-40eb-9aa9-31ed485c98a0
Train stations, you get to see many of them if you are travelling through Europe, London Euston on the top and Köln in the bottom.

Below is what was my planned itinerary:

Starting on Friday January 31st:
Stockholm (08:21) – Copenhagen (13:13)
Copenhagen (15:26) – Hamburg (20:20)
Hotel night booked close by the train station
Hamburg (05:46) – Köln (09:49)
Köln (10:32) – Bruxelles Midi (13:35)
Bruxelles Midi Eurostar (14:52) – London St. Pancras (16:05)
London Euston (16:30) – Lancaster (18:55) (booked by myself)

Starting on Friday February 7th:
Lancaster (08:38) – London Euston (11:10) (booked by myself)
London St. Pancras (12:58) – Bruxelles Midi Eurostar (16:08)
Bruxelles Midi (16:22) – Köln (18:15)
Köln (19:09) – Hamburg (23:16)
Hotel night booked close by the train station
Hamburg (08:53) – Copenhagen (13:33)
Copenhagen (14:10) – Stockholm (19:38)

The train travel

The train travel, despite spanning four days, went for the most part smoothly and I hade quite some productive hours on the train, as well as a few really interesting conversations with fellow travellers. The largest mishap happened when I arrived at Brussels, and my 14:52 Eurostar train to London was cancelled. I (and all other passengers) were rebooked to the 17:00 train to London, which meant a 2 hour wait, as well as two long and complicated phone conversations with trainline to book a new ticket to Lancaster. This ticket became considerably more expensive, and the train did not go the whole way, so I had a replacement bus ride in northern England to enjoy. But, I still arrived the same day as intended. Just much later.

The trip (except for the UK trains) were booked through our travel agency Egencia, and it was an 5 day interrail pass and seat bookings. This meant I had to remember to fill in the interrail travel plan through out the trip, but it also meant that I felt less stressed about any potential delays. I could have potentially been able to take a later train. Having a stop over in Hamburg also gave some leeway for delays.

Working wise, the travel days were long, so even though I might have napped a few times, I could still spend some quality hours working. The Wifi on board the trains worked better than expected, except for the Eurostar. And, the train between Köln and Hamburg did not have a wifi (it was not an ICE (InterCity Express) but a EC (EuroCity)). On the way back through Sweden, the electric sockets in my carriage stopped working half way through the trip, but at that time I was so tired I just packed away my computer.

Lancaster
Beautiful Lancaster, the castle on the top left was a real prison until 2011.

The Stay

I arrived late Saturday evening, and just went directly to bed. The Sunday was spent mostly exploring, first by a sightseeing jog in the morning, then a guided tour through the castle in Lancaster, and lastly a long ramble through the town. In the evening I was invited to dinner by Mike and Simone (Mike being Kelly’s supervisor).

Monday 3rd of February, the viva was planned for early afternoon, I went to the campus by bus mid-morning and then spent some time with Mike, and then the internal examiner Gordon Blair. 14-16 Kelly did splendidly in the viva, and afterwards there was home baked cake! in her office. The evening was spent in celebration, with a dinner with Kelly and colleagues and a few beers.

Kelly_Gordon_Elina
The Viva people, Gordon Blair, Kelly Widdicks and yours truly.

Tuesday, after working a for an hour in my bed with a great view, I went to the campus to give a presentation on how to integrate sustainability in computing education. Despite this being planned quite late, I was happy to have a fairly large audience. I managed to squeeze in some work as well, borrowing a desk in Kelly’s office. There were also some socialising over lunch, as well as a high tea with Adrian Friday (which basically was a long and cordial chat over tea, drawing up plans for future collaborations). Tuesday evening was spent rambling through Lancaster again, and then a few hours work from bed.

On Wednesday I took the opportunity to walk towards the campus along the canal that ran through Lancaster. It was almost painfully beautiful, but halfway there the walking path took me up to the well trafficked road, so then I took the bus the rest of the way. On Wednesday, two workshops were planned, one at the school of Computing and Communication and one at the Lancaster Environmental Centre (LEC). The workshops covered academic flying (and will inform our FLIGHT project), and I am really happy these were able to be planned and executed. A warm thanks to Mike who organised and made sure people showed up! In the evening I hanged out with Oliver Bates and friend, a real English pub experience.

Pokermarker
These poker markers were not used in the pub, but were rather material in the flight workshops. The picture shows one divison at KTH, with 30 employees, and their flights. Green = Nordic flights, Red = European flights, Black = Intercontinental flights

Lastly, on Thursday, I made a trip to Edinburgh (it was only 2 hours away with train!), to visit Callum Egan and the Lion’s gate permaculture garden at Edinburgh Napier University. It was a very inspiring visit, including maybe the best vegetarian sandwich I’ve eaten. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Siôn Pickering at the department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability to discuss ways to work with carbon emissions from academic flying. Siôn and colleagues have a public available reporting tool covering their carbon emissions from travel, which I found really inspiring. I also presented our research project, and promised to get back when we had more results.

Friday, I started my travel back to Sweden, with a slightly sore heart. I really enjoyed my stay, and could easily have stayed longer if I had had the opportunity. But, there are some new collaborations brewing from this visit. I hope I will se many of the people I met at the ICT4S conference in Bristol in June.

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