Just another day at the office

By Fiona Simon

At risk of trotting out another ‘age of austerity’ cliché, businesses certainly do need to make every working hour profitable at the moment. Transport is a big part of this – not just the big stuff like getting an electric car overhaul for a company fleet, but more prosaic matters like keeping staff as productive as possible even when on the move.

This is where train travel wins hands down as the business travel mode of choice with facilities like Wi-Fi at your fingertips you can use your laptop or tablet to get your work done wherever you are. Here in Scotland, we’re still making strides to get fully connected on the go.

The Scottish Government announced recently that they are funding a pilot scheme to put Wi-Fi technology on one of Scotland’s busiest train routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow with a view to rolling this out across Scotland. Many other routes have well established facilities, this useful map produced by shows all the other Wi-Fi facilities on other UK train routes.

You can’t pick up that vital email or finish off the last few slides of the presentation you are giving to a client on a plane – there is no Wi-Fi , certainly not on domestic flights anyway, and at the moment you can’t even use your mobile phone on a plane: frankly,  a  massive relief to a most people…

Flying isn’t all that it seems, anyway. On first look the flight time may appear shorter than the train journey but once you have factored in travelling to and from the airports (particularly any of the ‘London’ airports) and time for checking in and going through security there really is very little between them. All in all, flying is a bit of a bluff in time/economics terms.

In productivity terms, getting behind the wheel of a car’s got to be worst, as clearly your only focus has to be the road ahead. With many businesses paying employees 45p per mile for business trips it’s an expensive option too.

What about the carbon emissions? Well the train wins there too. When comparing a journey from Glasgow to central London the public transport option would use 31.6kg of CO2 compared with 101.4kg by plane and 75.8 kg in a small car.

Of course we could use the technology in our own offices and not travel at all. Video conferencing facilities are improving all the time and web conferencing and messaging software means that every member of staff can have a virtual face to face meeting at their own desks. Such developments have even led the odd leading company to consider even email too slow and inefficient a way of doing things.

Sure, discussing the big issues on a screen is not quite the same, and you can’t always read the more subtle nuances of the people you’re working with. But purely from an economic and environmental angle, staying right where you are – saving maximum time, money and carbon emissions – is clearly the direction we’re moving. But if you really must, it’s fair to say that rail rules. Now about those fares…