19 AUGUST 1995, Page 25

The glamour factor

Sir: Some ingredient over and above mere reliability is needed before there will be a significant transfer of passenger traffic from car to train (Leader, 7 August). The glamour left the railways for the airlines and the private car some time in the middle of the century, and as a consequence rail- ways are now seen as being for the 'second- class citizen' (if any such exist).

It is not true to say that trains are univer- sally uncomfortable, but it could be argued that they are universally not comfortable. The last truly comfortable seats were those provided in the first-class compartments of the British Railways Mk I carriage, a few of which were still in ordinary service as recent- ly as two or three years ago. These seats were not designed in any way, they were sim- ply constructed on generous lines of sprung bases, thick cushions and padded armrests. They would accommodate any shape or size of person in complete comfort.

Railways are potentially the most civilised form of overland transport left to us. While we should continue to make them as fast and reliable as is humanly possible, the emphasis should otherwise be on an order of comfort and quality of catering that no other form could possibly reach. First-class seats of the Mk I standard should be re-instated. There should be some old-fashioned closed compartments. There should be proper cafés and restau- rants, designed as such, on all long-distance services, including cross-country. It is time to demand that we have a proper railway in this country, not a pseudo-airline.

Chris Noel

Church House, Ledbury, Herefordshire