Saturday, May 17, 2008

I'm On The Train

Living in London boasts many advantages, but one drawback is visiting my Dad who lives in Stockport. The drive is excruciating; never really less than four hours once I've spent an hour negotiating around the Congestion charge area and then another three on the M40, the extortionate M6 toll and the crowded M6. And all the while the thought lurking at the back of my mind: Driving is Dangerous. One day, somewhere on these motorways, my number will come up.

Well, no longer. This week I threw caution to the winds and booked a first class ticket (£80) with a company that boasts one of the worst reputations in the country, Virgin Trains.

Reader, I have to report that the experience was fantastic. The train was one of those swanky new 'Pendolino' efforts that shot out of Euston like a bullet from a gun. A pleasant staff brought me a cooked breakfast. The train leans elegantly into curves, gently shaking the coffee in your cup. I'd brought a book but instead found myself watching verdant England sweep past the window. London was left behind in a trice, replaced by green fields, churches, canals (I never knew this country had so many canals) and growths of boxy houses (I think one of them was called 'Stoke').

It's a world away from what this was just a couple of years ago with worn out staff and knackered rolling stock - finally it feels like all Virgin's investment and PR pain has been worth it.
I'm not bothering with the car again.

UPDATE: Don't make the mistake Andrew Neil did and try it at a weekend. How long has he lived in this country? Everyone knows the rail network is substandard on Saturdays and Sundays.

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