A London council worker set off from London St Pancras yesterday with one mission in mind – to see how far he could get by train in 24 hours.
Jo Kibble, who works for Ealing Council, recorded the whole journey on Twitter, posting videos at his stops in Paris, Basel and Milan among other places.
Six months ago he’d done the same by bus – traveling through Northampton, Leicester, Aylesbury, through the Peak District and on to Morecambe in Lancashire, 260 miles from his central London starting point.
Mr Kibble starts the clock the second the first bus or train doors close – in the case of his train journey yesterday, on the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord.
“What is the furthest point I can get from St Pancras in 24 hours? I think I know on paper, but there’s some tight connections ahead…” he asked Twitter followers shortly after 6am on Wednesday, before starting the clock on the Eurostar at 07:01.
“I have been starved of international travel for two years, and Europe is opening up again. Last year I sated my wanderlust by seeing how far I could get by bus from London in 24 hours, so the trains seemed an obvious follow up,” Mr Kibble told The Independent.
“I also noticed it was the 50th birthday of the Interrail pass, which I have many happy memories of using in my youth, so it was fun to get one again.”
A self-confessed train-timetables nerd, he has studied and researched the options for going east or south through Europe, weighing up the pros and cons of the various different routes he could pack into one day.
“It took a lot of planning – there was a lot of trial and error finding the furthest place you can reach, and like many people I initially thought it would be to the east,” he says.
“I had to do a lot of spreadsheets, timetable wrangling and map measuring to come up with the eventual answer. And some back-up plans if the trains played up!”
There was a humanitarian twist to this mission, too – early in the journey, he made a pledge to donate 20p per kilometer traveled to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) in support of people living in Ukraine.
And with his odyssey clocking up 1,960km (1,218 miles), that means a donation of £392.
Mr Kibble’s final stop was Bovo Marina in southern Italy – “an archetypal southern Italian town by the Ionian Sea, with a gray volcanic beach, prickly pears and palms, but where bizarrely everyone speaks a Greek dialect dating back to the Ancient Greek occupation and all the road signs are in Italian and Greek. It feels totally forgotten and a bit end of the world.”
He got to try out nine different European trains over four different countries – France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Colorful narration along the way included noting that some tunnels on France’s high speed line were built to protect the country’s champagne vineyards, and a waiter asking exactly how many seconds people would like their peppermint teabag steeped for on his Swiss train.
His favorite train along the way was the Zurich-Milan Express: “You pass about five beautiful lakes, cows, goats and meadows, and go through the Gotthard tunnel which gives a complete landscape and cultural change from German speaking to Italian speaking Switzerland.
“And they have beautiful new trains, called ‘Giruno’, or ‘Buzzard’ in Rhaetian, with huge windows, low floors, very comfortable seats and a nice restaurant car.”
As for the next mission, what could possibly follow a mega-train voyage over 24 hours?
“I really haven’t thought about it,” says Mr Kibble. “I’m not sure what comes after trains and buses, but I expect social media will give me some ideas…”
- Eurostar at 07:01 from St Pancras, reaching Paris Gare du Nord at 10:23
- 10.55 Inter-city express (ICE) from Paris, getting to Strasbourg in time to connect to a TER to Basel
- From there an IC to Zurich
- An EC train to Milan
- The 19:25 FR service to Rome
- The 23:00 Syracuse ICN (night train) to Villa San Giovanni
- There is change to Reggio di Calabria Centrale
- A local train onward to Bova Marina, arriving at 7am