On my mind
I LOVE trains. Despite the absence of the maelstrom of steam and soot of former times there is nothing more impressive than the way a train can still triumphantly enter a station and overpower it with its presence or the odour of diesel and hot steel.
The car is a poor, selfindulgent, alternative to the train’s hypnotic rhythm and unpredictable change of pace, and to the apprehension and turbulence of the tunnel.
For Robert Louis Stevenson the train was: “Faster than fairies, faster than witches, bridges and houses, hedges and ditches, And charging along like troops in a battle, All through the meadows the horses and cattle…”
Then last week the romance was shattered as two Lycras ran out of tarmac and wheeled their bikes into the same carriage, the air conditioning packed in, the late train became even later, standing room only and the steaming service was terminated twenty minutes from my destination.
Following the train wreck of a contract in 2003, arranged by the Department of Transport and inherited by Welsh Government, when no allowance was made for increased passengers and the need for extra coaches, KeolisAmey, the new franchise holder for Wales and the borders, have a lot to do to turn around the situation.
Their plans to improve services are comprehensive and they come with plenty of jobs and £800 million pounds of investment.
Certainly they need to be given time and understanding in the short term, but in the long term there will be no excuse for Keolis, a French/Canadian railway operator, and Amey, an infrastructure consultancy and a subsidiary of Spanish company Ferrovial, if they do not bring Welsh railways up to the standard of the rest of Europe – or at least learn how to turn on the air con.