In all the debates and controversies about rail privatisation, one key issue has been overlooked: filming permissions. I have just filmed the rail journey from London to Liverpool via Newcastle, York and Manchester. Shooting in four stations, operated by three companies, and on four trains - all owned by different conglomerates - takes a total of six separate permissions.
Add a desire to get into the cab of a train, and into the Grand Hall of the National Railway Museum and the actual telling of the story becomes secondary to organising the logistics. Andrew Thomas writes . . .
By comparison, the taking of an actual train journey seems relatively painless. Frustrating when the point of the TV piece is to show the pain. London to Newcastle by train takes just 2 1/2 hours. Irritatingly short. After buying a coffee and flicking through the in-train magazine, there's not quite enough time left over to write a script for a piece of TV about how poor our rail services are.
Salvation should come with the slog that is Newcastle to Liverpool which - despite a much shorter distance - takes four hours. That would be plenty for such a script if it wasn't for the fact that it's a constantly interrupted journey: in my case, two changes of train required.
Next month, former BA chairman Sir Rod Eddington will bring out a report on strategic transport needs that will have implications for decades to come. His brief is to come up with transport solutions that harmonise economic productivity across the country. In an attempt to gauge what the rail priorities should be, on Monday and Tuesday I took to my multiple trains.
All 5 of them. London to Newcastle, Newcastle to York, York to Manchester, Manchester to Liverpool and Liverpool back to London. Cost - if you're interested - a grand total of £191. Time spent on-board or on-platform - 580 minutes. Conclusion - north-south mainline trains offer pretty good services. East-west across the north - appalling.
If the government's plan of a 'Northern Way' economic zone to compete or complement the south is to get close to reality, it's the cross-northern links that need to be prioritised. That, and one film office.