Tomorrow's world today

The story of The Little Train That Could is an encouraging fable for anyone who has ever plodded uphill in pursuit of success, never losing sight of their destination, even when newer models have coasted by on the fast track. First seen on BBC1's Tomorrow's World in 1969, has the Tilting Train finally crested the summit, having endured a 30-year climb, to become the millennial mode of transport?

The early 1970s saw the advanced passenger train prototype tested on the London-to-Glasgow line. Passengers were promised a faster, more comfortable journey made possible by the APT's unique tilting mechanism, which allowed it to negotiate sharp bends on the track at high speeds. It was hailed as "the jewel in British Rail's crown", a beacon of hope for a national engineering industry in decline.

Tomorrow's World was an eager advocate of the APT's trail-blazing in the early days, but sadly it wasn't long before problems set in. BR was keen to point out that its revolutionary tilting mechanism was performing faultlessly - and more than a little embarrassed to admit that it was the rest of the train that was failing to keep up. The hydro-kinetic braking system caused major setbacks when the wrong kind of weather prevailed - in its first week out, the APT's brakes froze in low temperatures and its derailed passengers were downgraded to regular, more reliable, non- tilting trains. The rolling stock became a laughing stock as the APT repeatedly failed to make it out of the shunting yard, and, in the early years of the 1980s, The Little Train That Seemingly Couldn't was exiled to Crewe, destined to spend its sunset years in the locomotive equivalent of Eastbourne.

But lo! Twenty-five years down the line, here comes the Fat-Walleted Controller of great British innovation - Richard Branson - to save the day. Having seen the tilting mechanism developed in this country adopted by rail companies in Italy, Sweden and Germany, the new owner of Virgin West Coast railways has decided to bring it back home.

In 1988 TW reported from Italy on a new tilting train. "It's like a super- comfortable roller coaster - and it's really rather exciting!" enthused the presenter. And if you were wondering why the Italians' need for a smooth-cornering tilting train was pressing enough for them to steal a march on BR's idea, this was amply demonstrated by the TW reporter himself. Quaffing Chianti on board a bog-standard high-speed train, it seems, presents the stylish Italian commuter with all manner of problems, not least of which must be sponging red-wine stains off pale-hued Armani linen as you rattle untiltingly towards your meeting in Milan. The cultural divide was the key to the Italian rail industry's foresight - after all, when did you last see a BR commuter in standard class indulging in a full- sized bottle of wine for consumption between Euston and Manchester Piccadilly? The price alone is enough to make you keel over, tilt mechanism or no tilt mechanism. Hence the absence of urgency in introducing a train whose primary boast appears to be reducing the risk of on-board wine spillage.

Ten years on, TW's Howard Stableford asked Richard Branson why he's convinced the time is right to go full-tilt on the West Coast line.

"I have a dream," declared the shy and retiring Virgin boss. "I want to make trains the most desirable way to travel." Judging by the state of the rolling stock he has inherited on the existing London-to-Glasgow line, it surely could not be made any less desirable. But wait: Mr Branson's vision for his 21st century trains entails nothing less than state-of-the-art comfort at 140mph. Seat-back TV screens, plush carpets, IT facilities, spacious seating, improved lighting and tinted windows, just for starters. Don't forget the bacon and tomato rolls, Richard.

On tonight's programme (BBC1, 7.30), Craig Doyle star-gazes in Hawaii, and Philippa Forrester reports on the millennium bug.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    General Cover Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?