The Nation's Trains: Over-Priced, Over-Crowded and Pretty Dirty

I got the train from Luton Airport to London yesterday, and - the glory that is St Pancras aside - blimey, but it was depressing. So today I am right behind Lib Dem Transport Spokesman Norman Baker, who's taken it upon himself to rail against our overpriced train network. "In Serbia, £10 will take you almost the distance between London and the Swiss Alps", he says, "while an English ticket will take you only as far as Basildon."

So the comparison between the UK and Serbia might be just a little bit disingenuous (and, really, who's to say the best of Basildon doesn't rival the Swiss Alps?), but he makes an excellent point. And he might also have added that most of our trains are often horribly overcrowded (that's if you're going to and from London, at least, where 70% of the 3.38 million people travelling by train every day begin or end their journeys) - and dirty.

But, Oh! It doesn't have to be that way! Train-lovers of the world, I give you the Eurostar - so comfortable, so civilised, and with a 92.4% chance of getting you there on time! No wonder passenger numbers went up 10.3% in 2008 (and that was despite a tunnel fire in September). And what's the fundamental difference between Eurostar and our domestic rail services? It's part-owned by French and Belgian rail companies SNCF and SNCB...

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