Japanese stories 3: A rant about trains

This blog isn’t about beer. It isn’t even about brewing at all.

In fact, we’d like to take a few minutes to talk about trains. We’re not trainspotters and we’re not going to bore you with a dossier of diesel engines through the ages. But Jason came back from Japan with a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the standard of the train service in the UK.

It’s not quite clear to us exactly when and why, but at some point Britain seems to have been left behind by many countries in the world when it comes to offering a decent train service.

We don’t want to bang on about it too much, but just consider the facts. If we want to get a train from Penrith to London, the fastest time we can do it in is three hours on a train with 11 carriages travelling at 125mph. Often it’s hard to find a seat and if you’re unlucky you’ll be stuck next to the lavatories drinking in the pleasant aroma of chemical toilets and worse. And, after all this, the chance of actually arriving on time is sporting at best.

Trains in Japan are better than trains in Penrith and the whole UK

Jason became a bit obsessed with trains in Japan and took lots of pictures like this. 

Compare this to getting the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. It’s a journey of almost the same distance, with the fastest train taking just over two hours and 20 minutes, travelling at a speed of 186mph. These trains are made up of five abreast seating on 16 tidy carriages (oh, and everybody faces forwards as well!). The trains arrive within 30 seconds of their schedule every time (and on the same platform).

Now, of course, we are not quite comparing apples with apples because Kyoto and Tokyo are both major cities whereas Penrith isn’t quite a megatropolis. But it still begs the question why it’s possible to offer a decent train service in one developed country while in another commuters have to play “platform ping pong” before sitting on their suitcase as the service (comparatively) limps its way halfway across the country.

That’s it, rant over. But perhaps we should take a leaf out of the Japanese book if we want people to start dumping their cars to get the train anytime soon...

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