I’m not a great train traveler. Not because I don’t like trains, as I do, but because my business doesn’t force me to use them that often. Today I went to Darlington, near Newcastle, on a National Express train and it wasn’t exactly what you’d call luxurious executive business travel, in fact I’ve had more customer service filling my car with petrol in the rain.
The cost of first class train travel in UK is an obscenity in anyones eyes. The sub-two and a half hour journey was originally quoted at £240. Well for that money I could have held the meeting in New York or Paris. And unlike air travel you don’t get a choice of operator and in this case the operator was National Express famous for herding commuters and students to and from major cities with all the luxury of a veal crate.
The trouble with National Express is that they are pretending to be a high speed coach company not an airline. Virgin Rail have it right, they have tried to transplant Virgin Atlantic to the railways and are good at stroking egos and providing free stuff. They dress in uniforms that someone, somewhere has designed even though the people who wear them are the usual assortment of retards and the hideously unattractive.
National Express has done away with all this frippery, opting for uniforms that would embarrass a 1960’s Italian aircrew. The men have hats that must have been designed by Postman Pat and the women look like lesbian wrestlers. Trust me a red tie and ill fitting trousers don’t excuse poor service.
The whole things feels cheap. Free paper but only the Times, free lounge but only if you have an Executive Open Premier FlexiFare and not if you have an First Advanced Budget Business ticket. In the end I’m too disinterested to care.
Train travel my save the environment but I’d fill the tank with baby seals or fly