This week intrepid Wigan fans made the frankly bonkers trip from Lancashire to Kazan to see Latics take on Rubin in the Europa League via Moscow and the Trans-Siberian Express. From next week such trips will be easier
While the official club party was a whistle-stop affair – arrival Tuesday night, departure Thursday night – Paul Woolham and Steve Best’s trip had more in common with the script of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ script.
Landing in Moscow on Monday was only part one of their trek – there followed an eventful night train along the Trans-Siberian Express – “no-one slept a wink, not one” – before arrival in Kazan early Wednesday.
“It was adventurous, I’ll say that,” laughed Steve.
“The locals have been so friendly, they’ve given us such a warm welcome. It’s great to be here.
Paul concurs. “It’s all right, isn’t it? It’s unreal mate, unreal.
“Who would have thought Wigan Athletic would ever have been playing out here in a proper game? Unreal.
“The city of Kazan is absolutely gorgeous, I have to say,” he says.
“And the weather is not too bad, not as bad as we’d been told. It’s colder in Wigan. Lovely.”
No doubt the pioneering Wiganers had trouble with the cyrillic (Russian script) railway signs, timetables and platform station names – but help is at hand.
Even rail buffs are sometimes confused by the endless different train booking systems across Europe, so expect a warm welcome next week for new online rail booking specialist Loco2.com,
The new website will make it possible to book tickets in one transaction for journeys starting from any UK station and heading to thousands of European destinations.
The company has already combined the booking systems of the French and German national rail operators (SNCF and Deutsche Bahn) to offer a huge choice of European rail tickets, and now the addition of tickets for trains in Britain – through the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) - will let it combine the fares of UK, French and German trains, including high-speed services such as Eurostar, TGV and ICE.
The service also means customers travelling from outside London are fully protected under international passenger rights, similar to those afforded to air passengers.
On Loco2, a search for any journey into Europe starting from outside London will automatically select a ‘London International CIV’ ticket for the UK portion of their journey, and if a Eurostar train is missed due to a UK rail disruption, customers will be eligible to travel on the next Eurostar service to depart at no extra cost.
Hero of the rail buffs Mark Smith, author of The Man In Seat 61, is a huge fan of the new service.
“For the first time, you can enter the name of your local station, however small and insignificant you think it is, then enter Amsterdam or Venice or Lucerne or Berlin or Barcelona or Copenhagen and it’ll work out (and book) all your trains.
“It’ll book to almost any local station abroad, too, however far from an airport.
“This is virtually a door-to-door solution – not something most airlines can boast!”
l INFORMATION: Loco2.com goes live on Tuesday.