21 May 2011

Dining car axe and the new elitism

News that from Monday the last dining cars on Britain's railways will be no more is a retrograde step.

One of the great things about travelling to Scotland on the East Coast Main Line was the opportunity of enjoying a fine meal over several hours. The hiatus so created transformed a four and half hour train journey into something far shorter and provided a welcome opportunity to find out more about your fellow travellers over a digestif.

The fact that you could do this on a cheap standard class ticket was an added bonus and one that meant the dining car was a more socially interesting place than other parts of the train. For example the last time I dined on board I sat opposite Dame Tani Grey Thompson.

It's clear the reason is financial - the east coast catering operation lost £20 million last year. But I can't help feeling if that's the case then they should simply increase prices. But the bigger reason is the space created allows them to cram even more paying passengers on board.

Travelling on an east coast train will be a more elitist experience as a result of this decision with only first class passengers enjoying a meal - which if it is anything like Virgin's fare will become indistinguishable from a microwaved airline meal within months.

It's funny that under all those years of the service being run by private sector operators the dining cars survived, but it took the now nationalised operator to wield the axe.

By way of conclusion - an east coast dining car features in probably the greatest film opening sequence ever (and greatest British gangster film) - Get Carter. I'm not sure it would work so well if Michael Caine wandered down and bought a sandwich from the buffet car...

1 comment:

  1. Agree with you about the iconic Get Carter sequence - but every time I've travelled on the East Coast Main Line it's been packed to capacity - and more. Enabling an extra coach-load of passengers to travel seems a higher priority than providing dining facilities for a small number of people.

    I'm also happy to look out of the window and watch the scenery go by.