Trains, planes and Scandinavians

Railway tunnel

Railway tunnelInsider has always wanted to go to Copenhagen. My late grandmother was born there and to this day family members say the words Takk for Maten at the end of each meal we eat together as a small but surviving nod to our Scandinavian heritage.

But for whatever reason the wish to go remained just that. Until last week, that is, when a business trip brought me at last to the city at the ripe old age of 55. This is actually a good age to go though. Copenhagen is very lively but little is cheap. Fortunately, I am old enough to have made a few krone but am still young enough to enjoy fully what that money could buy. And whisper it….you can smoke inside many of the city’s bars. No freezing outside.

The trip was at very short notice and as the taxi pulled up outside the house to take me to Paddington, I grabbed a guide to Copenhagen off the book shelf as a last minute thought. It was very dusty but looked new and unopened.

Due to the short notice I had made no arrival plans. So I started to read the guide on the one-and-a-half hour BA jaunt from Heathrow T5. One of Insider’s business travel bête noirs is the cost of European airport taxis so if at all possible I try and get the train or bus into the destination city.

The guide said that trains from the airport to the central station are cheap, quick and frequent. There was also a highlighted panel on the same page with the headline “The coming of the Metro” which I skimmed just as we were landing. Phrases such as “thus far beleaguered mini Metro project” and “long-awaited and ambitious two-line rail link” seeped into my memory while I sucked on the lemon from my gin and tonic.

Surprise, surprise, when I got to Copenhagen Airport there were signs for the Metro everywhere. My guidebook was slightly out of date. Fifteen years to be exact. So it went into the recycling bin while I queued for a Metro ticket. At the airport metro terminal there were a lot of people waiting – most of them appeared to be locals. The announcer spoke of “faults, delays and no service”. The waiting throng had Scandinavian furrowed brows, which gave the international signal for …”the airport train is broken.” The other word that was on their lips was “AGAIN.”

So we all piled onto the nearby overground train service to the city centre. They leave every 15 minutes. The journey time is 15 minutes (the same as the Metro). The price is about £3.90 (the same as the Metro). The next day I spoke to the information desk at Copenhagen’s central station about my return journey to the airport. But the Metro hasn’t made it to there – a shortfall which met with much eye rolling by the official plus a rueful “maybe in another twenty years it will get here…”

They don’t seem over-fond of their new(ish) transport system – the Københavnere. Which made me think of London and my journey from Heathrow to home in north London. Cost of Heathrow Express: £28 for 15 minutes. No metro ticket/ code sharing because “Heathrow Connect tickets and Oyster Cards are not valid on this service…”They were using old rolling stock so first class was not available (but who would upgrade for a 15-minute journey at those prices anyway?) Then you arrive in Paddington. With a long way to go and more money to pay.

London and Copenhagen are both expensive cities to visit. But on the short journey into the latter at least you don’t feel you have been fleeced just after landing.

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