Blaise Tapp: If you want a classic example of life in 2024 then catch a train

It’s often said that if you want to see the best bits of the country, then you need to travel by train.
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Railways hold a special place in the hearts of millions of people and have kept Michael Portillo in pastel trousers for the past 20 odd years. Such journeys evoke memories of happy times, which can’t be said for a 15 mile tailback on the M6.

However, anyone who has travelled by rail frequently in recent times will know that the reality is as far away as it is to be from our nostalgic, romantic view of this mode of transport.

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During three days of rail travel last week, I was personally impacted by four cancellations to journeys I was making across the UK, including a near 900-mile round trip to Edinburgh. Considering the inconvenience, my fellow travellers and I weren’t given a reason for two of the cancellations, while the others were explained away as being due to technical reasons, which we all took for there not being enough drivers.

We all know some of the reasons for this: years of under investment and continued industrial strife are the two which immediately spring to mind and it doesn’t help that fares rose again at the weekend - this time by nearly five per cent.

One thing that happens when a public service is stretched to its limits is that the users of that service - in this instance weary passengers become increasingly frustrated and, in some cases intolerant of those around them. I grew up in a not-so-distant-time when the young and healthy were almost duty bound to offer their seat on a bus or train to anybody who looked like they needed it more.

It’s second nature to my two to make way for older folk or pregnant women, regardless of whether or not they are half way through a YouTube clip about an American trying to eat his own body weight in killer chillies. My eldest and her pal did just that at the weekend, but not before a pair of octogenarians had shuffled their way into the heart of the carriage. Perhaps our fellow passengers didn’t see them…..

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Some might argue that those who have paid over the odds for an unpredictable service value their seat more than they value good manners but it is a sign of the times. As is the growing phenomenon of people being reluctant to move bags off seats.

If you want a classic example of life in 2024 then catch a train.