hidden europe 26

Night boat to Holland

by Nicky Gardner


To walk aboard the Pride of Rotterdam as she prepares to leave Hull for the overnight crossing to Holland is to engage with a piece of maritime history. The flag of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company still flies on the ships of P&O Ferries.

The bus station in the English city of Hull during the evening rush hour hardly seems the spot to embark on anything but the most prosaic of journeys. Overshadowed by the new St Stephen's shopping centre, the bus station morphs seamlessly into the adjacent train station. It is truly a paragon of multimodal virtue, allowing passengers arriving by train to transfer to local buses without having to stand in the Hull drizzle.

Buses to Beverley, Bransholme and Boothferry are routine affairs. They run every few minutes. Not route 70 which is a transport of delight. Just once a day suffices for the run out to the docks. Half a dozen passengers for the thirtyminute trip through crowded streets. The city of William Wilberforce flits by in the rain and a thousand office workers freed from the slavery of their desks huddle under umbrellas at bus stops. But route 70 just glides past on the wet streets. Then the bus rides bumper to bumper on the main road east before entering the docks. With a lurch and a thud the bus pulls to a stop outside the P&O ferry terminal.

"Rotterdam," shouts the bus driver to no-one in particular. Rucksacks are reunited with their owners and everyone alights.

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