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Railway cafés must improve, says minister

04 June 2009 by
Railway cafés must improve, says minister

The quality of food and beverages served in railway station cafes must improve - and the Minister of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has said that he is considering demanding improvement as part of the requirements of rail franchises.

"I want the best to become the norm," he has said, "and at the moment, the norm is not good enough."

The unusual spotlighting of railway catering came as a part of the Minister's project this month to experience rail travel from the perspective of an ordinary fare-paying passenger.

He traveled 2,000 miles, using 40 trains in a three-day period, and some of his major criticisms were of the catering provision on railway stations. His comments ranged from ‘downright poor' to ‘terrible'.

The minister's experiences prompted travel write Dixe Wills to compile a list of the top ten station cafes in Britain, and among them were two references to Brief Encounter, the1945 film celebrating the classic stiff-upper-lip attitudes of two lovers who meet in a railway buffet.

The Brief Encounter Café at Wymondham station in Norfolk was described as ‘an award-winning cafe on an award-winning station', having won recognition in the Association of Community Rail Partnerships awards.Dad's Army.

The real Brief Encounter café also figured in Dixe Wills' top ten - this is the Refreshment Room at Carnforth, Lancashire, which was used in the film, and which still features the 1940s décor.

Other station cafes have recently figured in awards. The Brunel Buffet, which operates from a railway carriage on the preserved steam railway at Minehead, recently took a regional prize in the Beverage Service Association's 'best beverage experience' awards.

By Ian Boughton

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