20 May 2007
The Ideal of Train Travel
Patrick Crozier

I like the current crop of animated Lloyds Bank ads.  The first stars a train that is sleek and comfortable.  The second, one that splits, with each carriage stopping at the front door of the occupants.

Together they perfectly encapsulate what I call the Ideal of Train Travel.  The first being the current ideal - the idea of clean, comfortable, punctual, stress-free travel - using existing technology and layouts and the second being the future ideal when all practical obstacles are removed.

But it’s a chimera.  Probably.  Especially, the future ideal.  I don’t know about the economics but I’d guess the chances that you could run track to everyone’s front door are probably rather low.  There’s the expense, the inconvenience, the difficulty in getting carriages to marry up with one another.  My guess is that if someone hasn’t already come up with it there are probably good reasons why they haven’t. 


The nearest I have heard of was the “slip” carriages that Great Western introduced in the 1930s.  These were carriages that would be detached from the train while it was still in motion and be slowed down to a stop by the brakeman.  Lord knows what happened if he stopped long or short of the station.  Maybe in those days things like that didn’t happen.

I am not even particularly optimistic about the current ideal.  To create that much on-board space would require either much higher fares or much higher taxes.  And all the business to do with punctuality and cleanliness requires culture - something that you (especially if that “you” happens to be the government) can’t create over night.  And that’s not to mention crime, vandalism and graffiti which are to a large extent outside the railway’s control.

Frankly, when all things are considered, the family car is a damn sight closer to the ideal than trains are or are ever likely to be.

Next post: Why railways are doomed.

  1. On rails?  This will never happen.  But on roadways?  I can certainly see this happening.  If every carriage in that ad has its own motive power, then the only difference between that and a lot of cars is the headway.  If we have the control mechanisms to reduce headways, and allow that robotic control, then that with cars is produced.

    I think the ads are less the ideal of train travel than the ideal of travel altogether.  Comfort, speed, safety, security, all without care or effort.

    Posted by Highway on  20 May 2007 at 08:38 pm

  2. Your RSS feed is broken.

    Posted by Rob M on  03 June 2007 at 02:54 am

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