Postcard from... Madrid


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The Independent Online


A few months ago, I got a train from London to Edinburgh. It was one of the least pleasant experiences of my life.

The train was hot; it stank; there’s barely enough leg room for a five-year-old, never mind somebody of average height; and (probably worst of all) the kiosk sold “tuna melt” sandwiches, one of which was bought by my neighbour for the journey, only adding to the feeling of acute nausea.

Whatever you do, don’t visit the bathroom.

Fast forward a few months to Spain, which has been economically crippled by the financial meltdown of recent years.

Despite its economic woes, Spain has one of the best railway systems in Europe: the trains are airy, comfortable and there’s plenty of legroom, and if you’re travelling any distance there’s a film to watch. And they run on time from stations – like Madrid’s Atocha – that are worth visiting even if you’re not going anywhere.

Spain’s trains are operated by the state-owned Renfe, which seems intent on ensuring that the trip is enjoyable and relaxed – if you miss your train, no worries, you can get the next one.

Our train companies in the UK could certainly learn a thing or two by taking a few journeys through Spain.