In a bizarre twist of circumstance, I have struggled to really get going with Matthew Engel's book Eleven Minutes Late - a train journey to the soul of Britain because I only really get time to read when I'm travelling on trains. The commute takes half an hour and this is one of those books where dipping in and out doesn't do it justice. That all said, it is a terrific tour de force and at times powerfully written. He doesn't hold back on slamming the inept and the inert for contributing to the mess that is the British railway system. I have particularly enjoyed all references to the "bottom-of-the-barrel" 142 Pacer trains, some of which, he tells, have been sold to Iran as some kind of arm of George Bush's cold war against them. It's a thought provoking, witty and passionate book that made me laugh out loud as much as it made me growl with anger.
Also, the man who stood behind Dr Beeching while he waved his axe was Ernest Marples.
But he quotes a letter from Patricia Roberts of Marple Bridge from 1963 to the Guardian:
"Shall we in a few years time, when traffic in Manchester has inevitably become denser, be bitterly regretting these closures and at great expense be rebuilding commuter lines?"
As Engel points out, in Manchester they now call them trams.
Also, please support the Teenage Cancer Trust Laurie Engel Fund, a trust set up for teenagers with cancer, in memory of Matthew Engel's son who died in 2005.