As I write, I'm on a train somewhere between Chesterfield and Derby. And I'm wondering if the environmentally friendly leftist public transport types might not have a point.
SHOCK HORROR! A petrolhead praising public transport? Stop pinching yourself; it's true. But I'm not about to start a soliloquy about the bus, nor shall I wax lyrical on the virtues of the tram. The train is my one public transport weakness.
Of some 13000 miles travelled in the last twelve months, I would estimate that about 5000 have been by train. And there's a good reason - in fact, there are a few. I've just hit Derby, thirty minutes after putting down a pint glass in Sheffield. In just over two hours from the point of writing I shall have hit Bristol, where my journey will break for the evening. I've listened to half of the Rio album, but then I could have quite easily done that on the M1 in a Rover Sterling. Big deal. Show me the motorist, however, who has had time to read the Telegraph between Sheffield and Derby. In return, I'll show you the motorway barrier he crashed into. I also have copies of The Times and Private Eye to entertain me on my journey - motorway man has not.
I shan't pretend that train travel is cheap - a standard class ticket from Meadowhall to Bristol Lawrence Hill is the nasty side of fifty quid even at student rates. But consider my taste in tin - how many old Jags, big Rovers or Merc W124s can cover 200 miles on fifty quid, let alone do the return leg for just 25p more?
It's also rather comfortable - my handwriting isn't legible but the ride of this train at least ensures it's less illegible than it would be when written in the back of a chauffeured XJ40. I'm over six feet tall, yet the only encumbrance to space is the overnight bag I have wedged behind my legs. This could have gone in a luggage rack but I prefer to keep smaller items of luggage with me. So as far as provisions go, it's excellent.
I have access to food and drink too - not hastily snatched like a sausage roll from a motorway service station. I also can't leave crumbs in the car if I'm on the train. Try that in your S320. I know it's hardly a la carte but the only time you get that in a car is if you're Ian Richardson in the Grey Poupon advert.
But the key benefit is that things GET DONE on the train. I make no apology for having a schedule that calls for multitasking whilst travelling, but consider this; if I'd taken the car, another week would have gone by without a From The Captain's Chair update.
The downside is it's not really fun to get on in one place and just get off in another. It's the real-life equivalent of a matter transference beam. But consider the alternative, for the trip I'm making. M1, M42, M40, M5, M32. Is that REALLY such fun> Motorway driving requires just enough concentration to stop you reading something awful like the Guardian, yet returns just enough boredom to make you long to.
For long haul dull trips why take the car? If, like me, you find motoring an art and pleasure, what is motorway work but the eternal scratching of infinite nails down the blackboard of your own despair? If Toad Hall had been just off the M4, would Toad have enjoyed screaming POOP POOP! long enough to get locked up? I don't think he'd have bothered.
So why should you?