So what if British trains are slow? They are only catching up with the rest of the world
By Jeremy Atiyah
I do hope that there are some foreign tourists enjoying
17 December 2000
This is not to wish harm to foreign tourists. It is just to say that these are the only people who might actually be enjoying the experience of, say, spending entire nights on trains travelling between London and Nottingham (as opposed to the locals, most of whom probably want to string themselves up from the nearest broken signals).
Swedes, I hope, are already cracking jokes with Spaniards about funny British trains (maybe they will re-run the one about the man asking if he has the right platform for today's train. The guard replies: "No sir. This is yesterday's train. Today's train comes tomorrow") Commuters will not laugh, but if you are a Swede or a Spaniard, there is at least a chance that you will board your British train smiling contentedly at the ancient truth that timetables are not the only thing in life.
We are always reading in guidebooks, after all, about the pleasure of catching trains "just for the experience of it". How about the famous "toy train" to Darjeeling in India, for example, which takes an entire day to trundle up a miniature-gauge railway, along a route that can be covered in no time at all by bus? Everyone agrees (except, presumably, for local commuters) that the train is the only way to do it - because of the funny clanking noises and the sheer nostalgia the ride evokes.
Then there was the excellent direct train that, until recently, still ran between
It is the same with all the great train rides. Yes, some of them are very long journeys. But what makes them really "great" is their slowness. The Trans-Siberian may be the longest railway in the world, but by any standards a whole week to get from
My own favourite place for extremely slow trains used to be
But that has all changed. These days Spanish trains have become so speedy that there is no fun in them any more. Riding to Andalucia is getting to be a lot faster than riding to (say)