Monday, 4 September 2017

Geneva reunion (1)

After lunch we took the stopping Train Regional to Lausanne, then the non-stop Intercity to Geneva. The latter part of the trip takes just over half an hour now that the third railway track is operational for most of the route. We'd been invited to stay with our friend Yvette in Chambesy, and this meant catching the Train Regional which shuttles between Geneve Cornavin and Coppet at the east end of Geneva Canton, back toward Lausanne. Chambesy station is currently a building site. It's  being remodelled to create along the station length an additional section of rail track, to enable trains on a single line to pass each other. Once done, four shuttle trains an hour will run on the single line.

Hopefully, this will help attract more commuters away from car use. Geneva has a wonderful public transport network, and one of the worst imaginable road traffic congestion problems, as the city has borders with France on either side of the lake, and the only way to pass from one side to the other, and not go the long way round using the motorway bypass, is through the town centre, using the Pont du Mont Blanc, near to Holy Trinity Anglican Church. Debate has gone on since the 1980s about driving a road tunnel under the lake, or possibly building another bridge. Progress has been made on every other possible transport improvement, but not this. 

Recently, agreement has been reached to investigate bridge building possibilities, though how this could be funded remains to be seen, as the cost would run into billions of Swiss Francs. Figuring out how to get a return on the investment is not going to be easy. Swiss railway networks are subsidised, and trains are well used, but revenue is not rising. Fares have risen to compensate, but this tends to drive travellers back into car usage. Not a good idea. Modern economies rely entirely on efficient transport infrastructure. Rarely is this really profitable. Infrastructure running costs are a big social investment, a burden on tax like the NHS, and tax is how we invest collectively in having things work as well as everyone wants to work. But how we resent this!

Yvette met us at the station and drove us to her house. It's all so familiar, it doesn't seem like five years since we were last here and staying with her. In the evening, our friend Manel came over to join us for dinner, full of excitement about a guided tour of her native Sri Lanka she's organised for a church group visit, leaving this week. Doing detailed background research for this trip has been an absorbing and interesting experience for her. She discovered that a Chaplain of Holy Trinity Geneva in the 1930s, W S Senior, had previously ministered in Sri Lanka. This led her to research his biography with great interest. I learned that Holy Trinity Archive material is now being assembled to deposit in Geneva's Cantonal archive. It's another interesting process of discovery, but well worthwhile, given that the origins of the chaplaincy as a Church of England entity reach back into the late eighteenth century. 

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