Scrap the dining car? What next?

I finally cracked this week; I've been successfully avoiding bad news, the gloom, Leonard Cohen, anything with Robert Peston; I've been turning off the Today programme and putting on Beyoncé when the going gets financial.

Then I caught the BBC Six O’Clock News and witnessed the desperate sight of Gordon Brown’s photo op next to Denise Van Outen and Chris Moyles outside Number 10. All in the name of charity, but won’t we look back on this in 20 years’ time with utter bewilderment? We will tell our children this is what the man in charge did while Britain crumbled; he stood grinning inanely beside celebs, temporarily relieved that nobody was asking him to apologise for losing all our cash.

Things deteriorated further. In the same month that The Sunday Times gave its entire travel section over to train travel, how green it is, how wonderful and stylish it is in Europe, and how avoiding airports is a joy, some soulless passenger-haters at National Express want to scrap the 130-year tradition of the dining car.

One of my resounding memories from last year was a trip from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh. I was on the train surrounded by free-range children, two of whom had been allowed to bring percussion for the journey. I had a plan. I’d bought a standard seat for 11.30am, which meant that around 12-ish I could flee the squealers and the flying Dairylea triangles for the oasis at the front of the train. Four courses of great food, wine and silver service. By the time the main course was nearly finished, we were whizzing past the Angel of the North. It was not cheap, but what a pleasure, a last sip of wine as we pulled into Waverley Station.

It is just typical of Britain that when we get something right, it is taken away. When I spoke to National Express, I discovered it was because of people like me that they have decided to put extra seats in the dining area, and first class passengers can have food brought to their seats. This defeats the pleasure and also denies the fun. In these times, in business and in pleasure, surely we need to cling on to those simple foundations of service and grace, and stop tinkering.

 

Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team

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