National Train Day

By | Category: Travel rumblings

SouthWest Train

SouthWest Train

Yes its National Train Day today, but not here. This is an American day to celebrate the benefits of the train. An annual event, this year it coincides with the 40th anniversary of Amtrak, the provider of long distance train travel in the US. In 2010 185 different events took place in the US to celebrate the day. And what do we do?
So the Americans celebrate their railways but do we? We rely on trains more than Americans do yet most of the stories we get are complaints about service, punctuality, pricing and cleanliness. We envy the speed of bullet trains in Japan and want high speed rail connections between our cities so that we have alternatives to air but then wage war when the track is due to be laid. No mainline train company celebrates their anniversary probably because most haven’t been around that long and the government fiddles with the franchises. Not many train companies are lamented, the Wrexham and Shropshire apart, when they cease to exist eg National Express East Coast and Connex South Eastern
We celebrate steam. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway Company has its 175th anniversary at the moment and Newtown station in Wales is about to have their 150th anniversary. But, on-a-day-to-day basis we don’t laud the rail service we have. Should we? Do we take it for granted? Does any other country have a National Train Day?
The answer to the last question seems to be no. No other country apart from the US has such a day. As to whether we take our rail service for granted, we probably do. Its only when someone suggests a closure of a line or a service is withdrawn that we notice it. Up until a few years ago we had no Sunday service on our line. Now although some would say we still don’t since it seems forever closed at weekends due to engineering works, when it does run it is used since we have no Sunday bus service either. But when trains don’t run they are missed
So I think it a rather laudable idea and one we might copy over here. Passenger Focus could use it, for example, to hand out awards to the train operator with the best customer satisfaction scores in the country over a 12 month period. Operators could use it to give guided tours over their facilities so we could understand better how complex running a railway has become. It might go a little away to giving some pride back to our railways and to remind us what we have.

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