It might take 29 hours longer, but it could still be preferable


My commute to work from the South Coast normally starts with the 07.02 from Netley station. Last week I switched South West Trains for south westerly winds; hordes of bleary eyed commuters for the occasional seagull and signalling problems in the Wimbledon area for the congested waters of the Thames Estuary.

Normally I change trains at Southampton: this time we caught the tidal gate off Beachy Head instead, to be whisked along the south coast. While the trains thundered through Winchester, Basingstoke and Clapham Junction, we sailed as the famous song suggests: past Beachy, past Fairlight and Dungeness, and then bearing away for South Foreland light. We hardened up to
round North Foreland as the wind began to build and sliced upwind into the Thames Estuary, briefly touching the bottom as we nosed our way through the Last channel.

As we approached London the view changed from mud flats to the machinery and
industry of Gravesend before giving way to the the neon glow of the Dome, the elegant stonework of Greenwich, the glass and steel of Canary Wharf, and the converted warehouses of Limehouse reach.

We arrived off Tower Bridge at 2130 on Monday night, feeling a sense of satisfaction you just don’t get from an hour on the train. I’d do it every day, but it took 30 hours – a figure that not even British Rail in its darkest days could have matched.