Travelling to the Airport
The AirRail Italia 2015 conference was held at Milan Maplensa Airport last week. As I arrived into Milan by train, I had to reach the airport via the Malpensa Express airport service. My introduction to the service was a bit confused though, as the first sign I saw when walking from the Thello train was for a bus service to Malpensa. There was no mention of the Malpensa Express.
I had checked on the website and I even had a ticket so I knew it should be there but I started to wonder if it was part of the metro system and so outside of the main station. If I had been trying to catch a flight this would have been a little stressful but luckily, I had plenty of time to go hunting. Before leaving the station, I checked the departure board closest to me, if you look very closely at the photo below, you can see how obvious the airport link is.
Once I realised that it was mixed in with the main rail services, I knew I was in the right place! At the side of the concourse I saw that it was on the larger departures screen too; however, as the destination name was scrolling, I hadn’t seen the words Aeroporto or Malpensa when I had glanced at it before.
When I had started walking to the platform, I realised why I hadn’t seen the specific train, it was right at the back of the station, out of sight at Platform 2. Not only is this service hidden, its also a good hike away from the central area.
If I had been trying to catch a flight, the lack of obvious signage and the platform location would have likely made me miss the first train to leave.
Once on board the train, there was a large amount of space to store luggage and plenty of seats. It would be quite difficult to work at a laptop as there are only little coffee shelves that fold out. Interestingly, it is only when I pulled out the table that I saw a power socket hiding underneath (on a subsequent trip there was a sticker showing the location of the socket). Unfortunately, there is no Wi-Fi on board.
The train took 52 minutes to travel to the airport, stopping off at a few commuter stations along the way – this is not a dedicated airport service so I would suspect that it would be a lot busier in the morning and evening peak hours. There were some announcements, through these were very quiet and in Italian so I assumed they were for the benefit of passengers travelling to intermediate stations.
Reaching Terminal 2
The Malpensa Express terminates at a station at Terminal 1 – to reach Terminal 2 (the low cost terminal), a passenger must change here for a shuttle bus to Terminal 2, though an extension to the Malpensa Express will open next year.
Landing at Malpensa Airport
On the airport side of the link, the provision of information was a lot more extensive. In the arrivals area, there is an explanation of the various public transport options, with heavy promotion of the Malpensa Express.
It is here that I saw the service has two city destinations, Milan Cadorna and Milan Centrale. There is no real explantion of what the difference is between these two destinations. Milan Cadorna is the city centre commuter rail station whereas Milan Centrale is the main rail hub (where long distance trains terminate).
The frequent, clear signage to the Malpensa Express station guides an arriving passenger to the station concourse. The signage is very helpful and really does promote using the rail link.
It was noticeable though that on the final route down to the Malpensa Express platform, the first branding you see on the train is for the Lombardia Express. A passenger could be forgiven for thinking that this is a different service.
Buying a Ticket
I bought a ticket in advance on the website but it is necessary to register and create a profile to buy a one-off ticket. For an international visitor, this process seems unnecessary: there was a ticket machine in the arrivals hall that didn’t have a queue – so it is more efficient to buy the ticket while you wait for your bags.
I appreciate that the Malpensa Express is probably more focussed on passengers within, or flying into, Milan; however, the experience of making the interchange from long distance rail was not simple and would have been improved greatly with large, dedicated signage or branding pointing to the rail link, especially as it is hidden at the back of the station.
At the airport end, the promotion of rail is repeated through signage and branding within the terminal. From the arrivals hall to the station, you cannot miss the way to the train. The dominance of directions to the train reinforces its provision as the obvious way to reach Milan city centre.
The trains I was travelling on were not especially busy, with mostly leisure travellers on board. With a journey of 52 minutes, the lack of a table and Wi-Fi did mean that I wasn’t able to use the time productively and I wonder whether this limits the attractiveness of the service.
Author: Liam Henderson