Never mind that air travel remains one of the safest ways to travel, at least statistically speaking. Never mind that additional security precautions are now in place to prevent a repeat of the September 11 terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center in New York and punched a hole in the Pentagon. More business travelers are looking to the train as an alternative to air travel-and they're finding that in many instances, traveling by rail is the right choice.
Trains are often the fastest way between popular business destinations. They're convenient, with many amenities you'd never find on a plane (everything from ample legroom to abundant laptop power connections).Plus, trains are terrific networking opportunities. Where else can you stand up, walk to the bar, strike up a conversation and even use your cell phone-while traveling at 150 miles per hour?
Is this a good time to be riding the rails? The answer is a qualified "yes." If you think you'll be able to sidestep the tighter security measures you'd find at an airport, think again. Amtrak implemented several new safety precautions in September. Travelers are required to show valid photo identification when purchasing tickets or checking baggage. (A valid ID includes a state driver's license, identification, passport, college ID or government employee ID.)
But there's also a downside of rail travel to consider. On long-haul routes-say, those that last more than 12 hours-going by rail may be impractical and inefficient. And remember, this isn't Switzerland, where the trains always run on time. Even on popular routes like the Acela service from Washington, DC, to New York, passengers are often subjected to the same kind of delays that frustrate frequent fliers between those two cities.
All of which means that while it may be too early to declare a renaissance of rail travel, the train is making something of a comeback.
Christopher Elliott is a writer and commentator and the editor of www.elliott.org.