I get public transport to and from my office in the west of Glasgow every day and have always been surprised about how many of my colleagues choose to drive; the office is really well served by trains and several different bus routes so depending on your starting location either bus or train can be a quicker and cheaper option than driving.
I work for a Scotch Whisky company based in Glasgow who also operate distilleries and offices all over the country, sometimes in quite obscure locations. When I started my job, I was strongly advised to get my driving licence as there are some locations which would be impossible to reach by public transport. To this the environmentalist in me said, “Challenge accepted!” I didn’t want to add to my carbon footprint so easily by driving around the country on my own, especially if I knew I could possibly avoid it.
I must add at this point that I have never enjoyed driving and had recently been in a motorcycle accident, which made me even more reluctant to get behind the wheel again anytime soon. That reluctance just added to my resolve to find more creative solutions, especially on the mornings when I had really early starts to get to the train station in time knowing that driving would buy me an extra hour in bed.
My first attempt at a solo site visit was to a distillery in Speyside to meet a colleague for an audit. I got the train at 7am from Glasgow to Elgin, where my colleague met me at the train station and we travelled to the distillery together. The real revelation from this trip was how spectacular the train line through the Cairngorms was, this made it much easier to get back on the train that evening and head home, although 10 hours on a train was enough for one day!
I take the opportunity to get some work done on the train or to watch movies on my laptop, knowing I wouldn’t be able to do either in a car. The only drawback is that I don’t have the same flexibility as I would have if I drove; when meetings end early or don’t happen at all I don’t have the option to hit the road earlier. Most sites have a bus or train station nearby and I am lucky that I have been able to plan meetings around the timetable so far. I have had to get taxis for short stretches in the most remote locations, but I am planning to start bringing my bike along.
The most logistically challenging site was the last one, trying to get to a distillery at the edge of a small town which isn’t served by any trains. And on my first attempt, I had to be onsite at 9am to meet an external auditor. No pressure. I was at the train station for 7am, by 8am I was standing at a bus stop in Dunblane waiting for the bus to Crieff where I had a local taxi booked for 8:55. I was making a cup of tea in the office at 8:59 when the auditor arrived; seamless. I think the distillery manager was more stressed than I was, thinking he’d have to deal with the audit on his own if I got lost somewhere along the way.
It has been quite an adventure trying to figure out the best routes, full of ups and downs literally and figuratively! My stubbornness has paid off though; aside from controlling the environmental impacts of my job I have visited towns and villages I never would have seen from a motorway, in many cases I saved money, and I’m sure that I’ve given my colleagues a lot of amusement with the weird and wonderful ways I’ve managed to make it to meetings!