A J Slatter rightly notes the implausibly smooth, tranquil excursions by host Michael Portillo in BBC TV’s Great British Railway Journeys.
Even allowing for lengthy excursions being heavily edited to fit the half-hour format, his trips do appear suspiciously hitch-free.
Long-suffering UK rail passengers watch incredulously as his idyllic journeys unfurl: each uncrowded train, devoid of mobile phone idiots or screaming children, apparently arriving and departing punctually.
Apart from a few unforeseen moments in the early series - one train was replaced by a bus service, and a platform was altered at short notice (occasioning an atypically gritty, jerky camera style as the crew raced across the station to catch the train) - the itinerary runs unrealistically unimpeded. Unless any obstacles are glossed over by the production team, Portillo seemingly manages to rendezvous with all interviewees at the appointed times and places.
Of course, train services can be as pleasurable as those depicted. But it would make an interesting experiment for a digital channel to attempt an open-ended series of live commuter rail journeys, unedited and unrestricted by a 30-minute slot, with footage of a delayed Portillo cooling his heels on the platform intercut with scheduled interviewees impatiently awaiting him at each destination.
This would give a truer portrayal of the constant hold-ups, overcrowding, missed appointments, passenger yobbery and unnecessary loudspeaker announcements that fray the tempers of modern rail-users. F Harvey, Bristol