Not only did the recent launch of Britain’s latest trains — the Hitachi hybrid Class 800 — turn into an all-too-predictable shambles, but any lover of this once rather romantic form of travel is left with one nagging question.
Even if they work, do the super-duper latest trains really have any of the comfort and glamour our glorious railways once offered?
The new trains are supposed to provide more seats, speed and reliability on services from London to Bristol and South Wales, but the launch trip broke down, was late and showered some passengers with leaking water from malfunctioning air conditioning.
The hybrid trains — actually a shabby cover for the fact that electrification has gone way over budget and won’t reach the ends of some lines — will not, in fact, travel at the promised 140mph, but the same 125mph as 40-year-old trains they are replacing. And speed isn’t everything.
Some people recollect how comfortable trains used to be. Rolling through lovely scenery in armchair-like seats that actually lined up with the windows — that you could open to smell Scottish pine forests, or Cornish seaside.
And the dining cars! White linen tablecloths, heavy silver cutlery, monogrammed crockery and printed menus, and proud, attentive smartly-dressed staff. Majestic Pullman cars had waiter service at every seat.
Today one is crammed into a sealed steel tube, not unlike a Ryanair plane. When did we unlearn how to make lovely trains?
Here, we look at the way we travelled before things