Rosamund Hyde alights from a train in Napanee, Ontario.
Rosamund Hyde, Ph. D, P. Eng. is a research support coordinator with Stantec Consulting, based in Toronto. In the past three years she has taken the train between Ontario and B.C. 10 times to attend business meetings.
Q. WHAT MAKES YOU CHOOSE THE TRAIN?
Like other people, I feel called to explore, “What is the life abundant?” For many years I had a car-free lifestyle and I learned a lot about abundant living from that experience. So when my work took a turn toward more travel I decided to see what I could learn by using only surface transportation — trains and buses. I wanted to take business travel seriously and not pretend that it wasn’t happening, that it didn’t have implications. Travel is hard on the environment, but sometimes it is necessary. A meeting in person can help people work together.
Q. WHAT’S THE LONGEST TRAIN JOURNEY YOU’VE TAKEN ?
Vancouver to Halifax and back, with lots of stops along the way. That’s about six nights and five days. It was broken up; I visited as many Stantec offices as I could.
Since 2006, for business travel I’ve always taken the train, sometimes supplementing it with long-distance bus for schedule reasons. I’ve travelled from B.C. to southern Ontario return by train 10 times in the past three years — twice by comfort class, and eight times by sleeper.
Q. HOW DO YOU PASS THE TIME?
I work. When I travel sleeper class I can have a great breakfast. I can work on my laptop for 12 hours without interruption. Then I can have a great dinner. Three days in a row! Travelling by train gives me time to reflect on my work and its implications.
Q. WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE DO YOU MEET?
The meals are community seating, so I meet lots of people from all over the world. There was an Australian farmer I met travelling through Alberta. He was ecstatic. He said, ‘This is the most surface water I’ve ever seen in my life.’
I met three sisters once. They were elderly and remembered when the train would stop for the railway staff to buy blueberries from people beside the track and they’d serve the berries for dinner.
Q. HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT SOMEONE IN THE OFFICE MIGHT THINK THAT YOU ARE NOT USING YOUR TIME EFFECTIVELY?
I think there’s a recognition that long-distance train travel doesn’t fit with everyone’s job. My job happens to be so independent that I could certainly do parts of it in isolation, and I do need the opportunity to focus. So that may mitigate people’s feelings, like them thinking, ‘Why isn’t she out meeting clients?’ or whatever.
Q. DID YOU LOOK INTO AIR TRAVEL AND FIND OUT THAT IT WAS ENVIRONMENTALLY HARMFUL?
I think the real thing is that we have transportation choices, our choices have consequences, and if we don’t explore the choices, it’s as though we don’t have them. So I explore surface travel.
Transportation comparisons are complex, but here’s one statistic to start from. In Canada 75% of the freight moves by rail, and only 3% of Canada’s overall greenhouse gas emissions are from rail. Seventy-five percent — that’s a huge number.