Letter: Transport of delight

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Sir: My wife and I took our holidays this summer in two breaks, one on the Continent, one in the UK.

On each we did much of the travelling by train, mostly in Switzerland, renowned for the excellence of its railway system. By using promotional offers we travelled first class. All the trains were comfortable and clean. Almost all arrived early or on time.

The highest standard of on-board services was on the two longest trips we made - over five hours in each direction. Throughout these journeys, highly efficient staff plied us with unlimited free coffee, tea, orange juice, mineral water and biscuits. There was a restaurant car on the train offering full meals but additionally the kind of "lounge service" which one might expect in a good standard of hotel. On the outward journey we arrived ten minutes early; on the return, just over five minutes early. The whole experience was a joy.

These two long journeys were not through Switzerland. They were in Britain, from London to Glasgow and back, via Edinburgh, on Great North Eastern Railways; the price of these first class tickets, conditional only on spending two nights away, was a ludicrous pounds 69 return.

Why is it that the British (and especially the media) have always taken a delight in disparaging railways? With service like this the rate of increase in passenger traffic witnessed since privatisation, already twice that predicted, is likely to grow even more. Such standards merit wider knowledge, as a balance to the more spasmodic incidents reported in your columns as "Great Railway Fiascos".