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Oh, to live in France where trains run on time.

Byline: Ian PARRI

SAY what you like about the French, but you've just got to admire several aspects of their country.

Granted, there are also certain minuses, but hasn't every country got to put up with their Sacha Distels and their Charles Aznavours? Yes, I know the latter is Armenian by birth, but I'm afraid the French are lumbered with him by now, just like we are with Rupert Moon.

But back to the plusses.

There's the laissez faire attitude to life for starters, as witnessed every now and then when their farmers take their tractors for a Sunday drive and rather inconveniently park them on the ferry ports' exit roads. How remiss of them. Then there's their love of good food and wine.

Not to mention the spine-tingling tones of Edith Piaf, the stunning good looks of the young Brigitte Bardot, and the now-fading skills of soccer star Zinedine Zidane.

But, if there's one field of provision in which they're head and shoulders above what we on this side of the Channel have to put up with, it just has to be public transport, and the railways, in particular.

We have to suffer a service that can often be an embarrassment, with trains running empty because nobody knows how to open the doors, and clapped-out carriages being re-labelled as ``heritage stock'' in an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.

The companies slap themselves on the backs for actually managing to arrive at their destination just five minutes late. But shouldn't they be apologising to their longsuffering customers for that level of service, rather than doing corporate cartwheels?

Over on mainland Europe, if you turn up at the station at 07.27 to catch the 07.26, then in all probability you'll have missed it.

Here you'd often have ample time for a cooked breakfast, followed by a quick snooze in the waiting room with the tramps.

I travelled between Paris and London on the Eurostar two days ago, and we fairly whizzed along until we emerged from the tunnel at the English end.

It was like stepping back in time from the 21st century to the 19th as we progressed at a snail's pace to London, running alongside local rusting rattlers obviously borrowed from Romanian Railways.

The journey back to Wales, although ``just'' 20 minutes late leaving Euston, certainly reminded me most forcefully why I so rarely catch the train anywhere.

That's quite apart from the fact that the nearest station to me is a pounds 20 one-way taxi ride away.

So that's the price we've had to pay for privatisation.

While other countries have efficient, state-run railways, we have to put up with inefficiency and risk to life, all for the sake of a previous PM's rigid adherence to political dogma. Thanks a bunch.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 26, 2002
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