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Plane vs train: Travel experts race from London to Brussels to compare speed and cost

The Independent logo The Independent 06/02/2023 Lucy Thackray
The finish line for the experiment was the EU Parliament building in Brussels © Getty Images/iStockphoto The finish line for the experiment was the EU Parliament building in Brussels

Two travel bloggers have raced between London and Brussels, testing the plane and train options between the cities for speed, experience and cost.

Nicky Kelvin and Liam Spencer of The Points Guy UK raced between the two European business and political hubs by plane and train respectively. The popular aviation and loyalty points blog posted a video of the event on 27 January.

The pair set off from the starting line – the Houses of Parliament in London – at 9.08am local time, racing to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

Mr Kelvin flew on Brussels Airlines from Heathrow, paying £2.60 for the tube from Westminster to Paddington, £25 for the Heathrow Express train service, a £140 flight fare to the Belgian city, and £40 taxi from Brussels airport to the European Parliament at Place du Luxembourg.

The total cost of his trip via air was £207.60.

His rival, Mr Spencer, took the Eurostar, paying £2.60 for the tube to London St Pancras station, a £276 Business Premier class ticket on the Eurostar to Brussels, and a £10 taxi from Brussels-Midi station to the EU Parliament building.

His trip via rail came to a total cost of £288.60.

The pair filmed their experiences by both plane and train, reporting back to travellers.

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Mr Kelvin, travelling by plane, beat Mr Spencer by just 18 minutes. The former, travelling by rail, arrived at 2.32pm CET, while his competitor arrived at 2.50pm.

Infuriatingly, Mr Spencer suffered a 30-minute delay on the Eurostar just before it met Brussels-Midi, saying in the video, “I can’t believe we’ve made it this close and we’re being held now.”

However, Mr Kelvin had also experienced an hour and 15 minute delay to his plane journey.

Despite losing the challenge, the train tester told MailOnline that travelling Business Premier had saved him time on his journey.

“My Eurostar ticket included fast-track security, which meant I could head straight through passport check to the lounge. The queue for those with a regular ticket was enormous and I saved at least half an hour thanks to my Business Premier ticket,” he said.

Of his economy plane seat, Mr Kelvin said it barely reclined, with an almost imperceptible shift back when he leant on it, but reported that the leg room was “pretty decent”.

He said: “Heathrow could be a difficult, inconvenient or expensive departure point to reach for some. And although this journey went smoothly, there is more potential for issues or delays with security, aircraft issue, air traffic control, baggage and immigration.”

In the video, Mr Spencer reported that a standard Eurostar ticket would have cost less at £140.

In the filmed challenge, the pair live-blogged their experience of seat comfort, speed through stations and airport terminals, and taxi journeys through the city.

“I think we’re gonna do it,” predicts Mr Spencer on the video, as he approaches the finish line in the taxi from Brussels Airport to the Parliament building.

On seeing Mr Kelvin at the entrance to the building, Mr Spencer grimaces, “No! I am so gutted.”

The final tally: Plane vs train, London to Brussels

By plane (Nicky):

Cost: £207.60

Delays: 1 hour 15 minute delay to flight

Time: 4 hours 24 minutes

By train (Liam):

Cost: £288.60

Delays: 30-minute delay as train came into Brussels

Time: 4 hours 42 minutes

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