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June 21, 2013 7:19 pm
All aboard! Boooop! Boooop! The Fast Lane Summer Super Express (FLSSE) is about to depart.
Don’t worry, no need to rush, you can buy your tickets on board the train and you can shed your luggage (LV, Goyard and Rimowa steamer trunks are all welcome) on the carts along the platform.
You still have time to grab a lovely flat white from one of the independently run coffee kiosks and, as it’s the weekend, there are a few extra stalls selling lunch-boxes and desserts for the journey. You can also dine on board if you wish but you’d be a bit foolish not to sample the breakfast sandwiches (flat bread, poached egg, yoghurt, roast tomato, pancetta, spinach and a bit of chilli) on offer from the Aussie-Lebanese girl or the fresh cardamom buns sold by the tanned Swedish gents in the sharp canvas aprons. There’s a kiosk in car number eight if you need some mags or games for the kids (they also stock the fine children’s journal, Anorak) and you can lower the window once you take your seats and buy bestsellers and the weekend papers from the man with the well stocked maggy-waggy along the platform.
Before you go any further you might want to look up at the departures board (it’s fully analogue and makes that lovely flapping-flipping sound as it updates – none of that backlit digital nonsense at our station) and decide where you’re going to go for your two-week break. The good news is that the FLSSE operates services from most places where you might be reading this newspaper. If you’re in Hamburg there’s a service that cuts through Germany and then makes stops in Lugano, Genoa and terminates in San Remo. From London there are a few options. If you’d like to stay domestic there’s a service down to St Ives in Cornwall that takes just two hours, or there are morning departures to Barcelona, Lisbon and Verona/Venice. In North America a Montreal service cuts through Vermont and New Hampshire to Cape Cod, and from New York you can go north up to Bar Harbour or south to sultry Savannah.
On board, the train is designed for stretching out, dozing, reading and even taking the sun. In second-class carriages there are soundproof compartments for families who use electronic devices as pacifiers for their children. Seats fold down flat so children needn’t play on the floor and dads can stretch out and watch a match thanks to high speed internet that runs the length of the rail corridor.
Between the second and first class sections a trio of cars take service, catering and retail to a new level with the first offering a combination newsstand and stand-up coffee with great baristas, all the news that’s fit to read and an award-winning line-up of sandwiches and salads. The second carriage offers a play room/nursery and resort shop stocking trunks by Timo, special edition shirts from Gitman Vintage and beach tunics from Liwan. The dining car features linen tablecloths, bud vases with regional flowers, chunky cutlery and jolly staff who actually enjoy working the rails and keeping passengers’ wine glasses full.
In first class the carriages are divided into open configurations with one/one seating complete with ottomans for stretching out and storing small objects, blackout blinds for keeping the glare off and gentle lighting for early morning departures and late evening return trips. The palette is soothing dark greens and matte oak, the headrests are changed with every rotation and there’s a phone cubicle at either end of the carriage for those who need to make calls that are unlikely to be of interest to other passengers.
Unlike some rail services that offer an all inclusive food/drink combo, the FLSSE would present passengers with a well-considered menu of wines, beers and cocktails.
Travelling at 300kph, the FLSSE’s carriages would feature ticker-style read-outs at either end of the cars delivering weather, news and arrival updates and a set of specially aerodynamically engineered cars would also have retractable sunroofs so passengers could get a head-start on their tans. On arrival, checked luggage would be waiting on carts, pre-booked drivers would be standing at the appropriate doors and there’d be a calm sense of welcome at the station.
Unfortunately dear reader, no such rail service currently exists and you’ll have to endure a slow Amtrak or VIA train if you’re in North America, a rickety service if you want to get down to Cornwall and the very unimaginative and stinky Eurostar if you want to get from London to the Continent this summer. You can always fly, but short-haul in North America and Europe is an equally demoralising experience. Fortunately it needn’t be this way. Simply pull out your scissors and clip out this column (or scan or forward) and send it along to the chief executive of one of the rail operators mentioned above. Boooop! Boooop!
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
More columns at www.ft.com/brule
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