Train travel is great for working. I claim my £10k consultancy fee

There's a simple joy in train travel, especially in muting your phone and ignoring it

Share

There is nowhere I’d rather work than on a train. Obviously, I mean an inter-city service around lunchtime, with tables free, during term time so squawky children are absent, and in a quiet coach which isn’t populated by people who assume that the signs refer to other people switching their phones off, not them. Those people I would cheerfully see swinging from railway bridges up and down the country.

And I’m in good company. The Public Accounts Committee has this week criticised the government’s plans for HS2 as ‘based on fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life’: in other words, they have shoddy maths (perhaps a remedial course at one of Michael Gove’s academies is in order) and can’t see that time spent on a train isn’t wasted, it’s used. Not only do plenty of people work on trains, they’re more productive than they would be in the office, because no one is interrupting them with pointless questions.

A quiet train, for me, is perfect. Writing is easier with a view whizzing past: it’s distracting enough to let your brain wander, but not so distracting that you lose focus. Obviously it can’t be a service which travels through Preston (the Bermuda triangle of signal failures, electrical faults and broken trains on the tracks ahead). At Preston, the scenery is static, sometimes for hours; and the vague fear that you might have to give up hope of getting home and simply live in Preston from now on can be dispiriting, fond as I am of the place.

I’m lucky that I’ve never had my love of trains destroyed by a regular commute – having committed my every waking hour to acquiring a job which doesn’t involve many early meetings, and only if they’re within walking distance of my home. Commuting is the evil twin of train travel: crammed into standing room, without hope of being able to reach into your bag, let alone read any of its contents or think about anything but the elbows of your fellow man. At least, you hope it’s an elbow.

Thus, I retain a simple joy in train travel, especially in muting a phone and ignoring it for a couple of hours. If it’s urgent, they can mail, if it isn’t (it never is), they can pester someone else instead. Being on a train is the perfect illustration of the theory that it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

The bad news is that the Department of Transport has already tanked £185m on consultants to provide them with the out-of-date data and unrealistic assumptions that have so annoyed the PAC. The good news is that they expect to tank another £300m before work on the new line even begins, so I’m sending them this column, and a bill for £10k.

*********

It’s always a treat to remind yourself that not only are you common, but so are the people working on Downton Abbey. They can brandish Julian Fellowes being married to the daughter of an earl as much as they like, but it doesn’t change the fact that the programme has been committing terrible dining-table faux pas. So much so that it has vexed the Countess of Carnarvon, in whose house it the programme is filmed. I’m rounding down when I say ‘house’, obviously.

Apparently, the Countess is breathing deeply from her sal volatile because she sees basic errors in Downton’s table-setting. Firstly, they don’t have enough staff  (isn’t that true for us all?). Then, she said, the ‘glasses are back to front,’ which reveals the depth of my plebitude, as I thought glasses were round, and therefore didn’t have a front or a back. How vulgar.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Developer

£50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Front End Developer

£50k - 70k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting Seni...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Vertical Sales Director

Market related: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Buy from Amazon and Apple and it’s you that ends up owned

Boyd Tonkin
Hughes in Durban in 2009, celebrating the first of his two centuries in the second Test against South Africa  

Sport will always be risky – we must accept that, even in the wake of the tragic death of Phillip Hughes

Rosie Millard
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game