An old grump might suggest that two hours is precisely the right amount of time to spend in Singapore

As the first contentious summer of industrial action on the newly privatised railways shows, the train operating companies are desperate for profits. So don't be surprised to see the rail companies seeking sponsorship for stations.

Look at the rail map of Britain, and you see the process has already started: British Steel Redcar, Butlins Penychain and IBM (a station near Glasgow) are already getting free publicity.

The richest sources of future earnings seem to be car manufacturers, who may rush to sign up Ford (West Sussex), Vauxhall (south London) and Leyland (Lancashire).

Tourist boards could get in on the act, with Cumbria sponsoring The Lakes - though the station of that name is in Warwickshire. The Egyptians may snap up Alexandria, north west of Glasgow. The official Republic of Cyprus and the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus may squabble for Cyprus on the Docklands Light Railway; one of them may settle for London Underground's District Line, because - like the division running across the island - it is the Green Line.

Weight Watchers could sign up Broadbottom, and change the name of the Greater Manchester railway that runs through it to the Slim Line. The Church of England might aspire to Hope (Derbyshire) while Hope (Clwyd) would be the preserve of the Methodists. Scottish bed manufacturers might wish to settle down with Inverkip, unless the sleeper trains between England and Scotland are already in bed with this trademark.

Last week these pages were all about dream travels. My modest midsummer aspirations were achieved with a weekend of sea, sun and snowballs in Bergen. Even though I was 500 miles short of the real midnight sun - my budget wouldn't stretch as far as the real thing - I flew to Bergen in readiness for the midnight sunset.

Hitch-hiking through the mountains to the port of Flam was trivial, because at this time of year the entire population of western Norway is in a state of high jollity. The return rail trip paused long enough at the high-altitude station of Myrdal for a snowball fight, and deposited me back in Bergen just in time to see the huge amber globe plummetting magnificently into the glistening harbour at Bergen on the stroke of 12, while about a million spectacularly drunk Norwegians tried to focus on it.

Sea, sunset and snowballs, all in a single day. Bergen in midsummer is, indeed, a fine city, but I am not sure that anywhere in the world could live up to the accolade claimed for it. The next morning I climbed Floyen, the hill overlooking Norway's second city, and met the giant troll who greets visitors. Next to this absurd apparition, a plaque proclaims Bergen to be "A perfection-flooded home blending nature's beauty and tranquillity with humanity's kindness and openness ... renowned through the length and breadth of the entire world as a dynamic centre of internationalism". They don't write holiday brochures like that any more.

On the subject of thumbing rides: "Whatever happened to hitch-hiking competitions?" demands Paul Gunn of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Mr Gunn suggests that the youth of today is getting soft. He recalls his sixth-form days at John Smeaton School on the east side of Leeds, conveniently close to the A64 trunk road.

"On dull days, of which there were many, we had a game. After morning registration we would hop over the fence to the A64 and see how far we could hitch and still get back before afternoon registration. I managed Pickering, 40 miles distant. It may not sound much, but the downside of failing to get back for registration was so severe that you had to play it safe."

A copy of the Hitch-hikers' Manual: Britain for the longest journey made during truancy - a practice, of course, that this column does not condone.

After the bus tour of Vienna airport that I described earlier this year, Singapore airport has got in on the act. The airport authority has introduced two-hour coach tours of the island, available to any passenger with sufficient transit time to take one. An old grump (see picture, left) might suggest that, given the wealth of attractions elsewhere in Asia, two hours is precisely the right amount of time to spend in Singapore.

Comments