Interview with Adrian Bridge, travel reporter

13 September 2021

In our continuing series of Rail Chatter, Emily Roberts interviews a man that has had rail travel on his mind every day for more than 20 years as The Telegraph Travel’s rail commission editor.

Adrian Bridge also held post as Deputy Travel Editor. He was founding member of The Independent newspaper with a seven-year period as Berlin and then Central Europe Correspondent (1986-2001).

Going back further, he grew up in a travel milieu as his parents were pioneers of the post-war travel industry in Britain and sent a good many people to the Continent by train. He is now a roving travel reporter with a licence to be thrilled.

Interview by Emily Roberts

Adrian, I expect a rail commission editor's job would be bittersweet. You get to know about all these wonderful rail journeys, but it would be impossible to travel on them all. That said, you were recently invited on board the inaugural Staycation Express. Tell us more.

Indeed, on both counts. Yes, I travelled on the Staycation Express between Skipton and Carlisle and subsequently wrote a piece on the experience for the Daily Telegraph. As such the trip was both business and pleasure. I know, I know, nice work if you can get it...

On the same day I travelled with LNER from London to Leeds and with Northern from Leeds to Skipton.

And have you any other trips planned in the near future?

I was so enamoured of the Settle-Carlisle line (thank you Michael Portillo!) that I plan to return to that part of the world in late August to repeat the journey in a more leisurely way with my wife.

Hopefully you'll have good weather again. All time faves. Journeys that have that WOW factor for you. What would they be?

I love the journey between London and Edinburgh and in particular the stretch between York and Berwick-upon-Tweed: stunning stretches of coastline, The Angel of the North, Lindisfarne and Holy Island and of course the great city of Newcastle. Slightly more randomly, I'm quite a fan of the Thameslink service from Bedford to Brighton that almost touches the Shard as it makes its way through the heart of London.

That's the great thing about rail travel, you can journey into the heart of a city, speed up and down the spine of the nation or venture off on the branch lines through amazing countryside. Have you a bucket-list for rail travel in Britain?

Add my name to the long list of those wanting to test out the revamped Caledonian Express train, going with it all the way to Fort William. It's a journey much favoured by Mark Smith the-man-in-seat-61 Smith, so it can't be bad. As a huge fan of sleeper trains, the London to Penzance Night Riviera is another must.

Are you a good sleeper on an overnight train?

Er, not brilliant. But I love the sound and the motion of trains so much that just lying awake in a bunk on a train fills me with a very special kind of joy. Second nights tend to be better than firsts!

In fact, the first train trip that made a vivid impression on me was a sleeper train that began at London Victoria and ended up somewhere in the Austrian Alps. I was about 9 and on a school trip. I loved everything about it.

Couple of tips for those making the most of freedom and encourage them to travel by train now we can get out and about?

Book ahead for good prices; travel outside busier periods (even if rush hour isn't quite what it was yet), try to get a forward-facing seat.

I'm yet to meet someone who prefers to travel facing the opposite of the direction of travel.

Yes I always opt for forward facing, though I have trained myself to appreciate sitting the other way round - because you can't always get what you want.

Too true! Do your family share your passion for rail travel?

When my children were about 6 and 7 we took a night train from Madrid to Bilbao and they were so excited and loved the compact cosiness of it all. I can still hear their squeals of delight. A few years later, when they were in their early teens, I took them on the Trans-Mongolian from Moscow to Beijing. At the time they expressed boredom with the scenery (there were a lot of birch trees) and remained resolutely glued to their mini-screens and headphones. In later years of course they felt it was one of the coolest journeys they'd ever done.

I've enjoyed our natter, and thought I'd end asking what I could have started with. What makes rail travel special for you?

The scenery, the very special sound of trains in motion, the random encounters, the chance to switch off and read or daydream, the ease coupled with the excitement of heading somewhere new (or newly rediscovered). Leisurely dining (when available!).

All the best for your onward rail adventures Adrian, no doubt we'll be reading about them in the weekend papers; keeping Brits inspired to explore Britain, and beyond, by rail.

Follow Adrian on Twitter.

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