The days when everyone had their own train

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Monday 19th March 2012

Travelling is an expensive, stressful business these days. Fuel costs are sky high, train fares prohibitively expensive and I was stunned when I drove to Manchester recently to find that using the M6 toll costs £5.50 each way. That seems an awful lot for just 27 miles of road…

The news didn’t get any better this morning when I opened The Times to discover that David Cameron wants to kickstart the economy by allowing private companies to build, operate and maintain motorways and trunk roads. Hard-pressed motorists apparently won’t have to pay to use existing roads but firms could charge for new routes or new pay-as-you go lanes.

As I read all this doom and gloom I wondered what Princess Alice, the Queen’s late aunt, would have made of it all. Over the weekend I was sorting out my embarrassingly cluttered office and discovered the transcript of a speech my mum once made.  She’d interviewed Princess Alice at her Kensington Palace home and they talked a lot about her childhood.

“As the daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch Princess Alice spent a childhood travelling from one ancestral home to another,” wrote my mum. “Whenever a journey was imminent, the children, servants, horses and luggage would be loaded on to the family train. ‘How extraordinary, Ma’am,’ I said, ‘to have your own train.’ ‘Oh, in those days,’ she said, ‘everybody did.’”

PS. I spotted this leopard-print Beetle in east London recently and still can’t decide whether it’s super-hideous or super-chic!

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