Sus­pi­ciously hitch-free

Rail (UK) - - Open Access -

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

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