Is our romance with rail over?

From the romance of the railway children to.. strikes
From the romance of the railway children to.. strikes

The Railway Children has a lot to answer for.

The magical children’s film gave me a taste for train travel that hasn’t entirely abated, despite the horror of the modern system with its delays, strikes, cancellations and pure tardiness - a situation which seems to be exacerbated every week.

From the romance of the railway children to.. strikes

From the romance of the railway children to.. strikes

And if there are leaves on the line, the railways world implodes and all bets are off.

Safe to say, at the moment, I am avoiding being plunged into the melee with the rest of the jaded travel-population (I sit in traffic queues instead) but there is a certain something about the railways that still evokes a feeling of magic, the invention of the railways was a time of innovation and pride in British history - it’s just a shame we’ve now let ourselves down.

For me the railways remind me of rose-tinted spectacled trips to London with my family (I’ve forgotten the squabbles).

They are a trip on a sleeper to Scotland and boarding Amtraks as a backpacker across America.

I’ve managed to block most of the pain, including an entire two hour plus London trip spent standing, crushed in the small, freezing, area between the carriages with a musician with three guitars and a lack of personal hygiene and a sweary business man wedged in my armpit.

And the late nights, stranded in Manchester or Liverpool, facing a cancelled train, a nauseous two hour bus trip or extortionate taxi ride home.

Now it seems, boarding a train is a lottery of luck.

It can still be fabulous if you board an expensive Pendolino to the big city, watching the sights fly by before braving the tilt and accompanying motion sickness to buy a gin and tonic in a can to pour in a plastic cup.

Then using a toilet that talks to you. Still a novelty.

But the ageing rolling stock of the north, boarded every day by commuters if they can find a non-cancelled service in vaguely the right direction, is not quite as comfortable an experience.

It’s safe to say travellers' tolerance levels have been driven (or rather, not driven) to breaking point and a feeling of resigned hopelessness only rivalled by the Brexit process, is widespread in customers and staff.

Let’s hope rail gets back on track.

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