Letter from America 1

Have arrived in the US to go on my big train trip. New York to Pittsburgh today, then Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco,LA, New Orleans, Baltimore and back to NYC. There is nowhere else in the world apart from China and Russia that you can do such a long trip in one country.

People are very down on Amtrak, so it will be fascinating to see how well they deliver. And of course whether they stick to time. I have no short connections to make, mostly 12 or 24 hours, so that should not be a problem

I have been riding the subway a lot in New York and while it is efficient, it does have a very rundown feel. There are, for example, no seats anywhere on platforms, and there are stairs that have not been swept for years. The rats on the lines are rather more threatening than our little mice. I wonder if there is a Kings Cross type disaster brewing. People tell me the system is a lot better than it used to be, but may be not good enough.

 On the plus side, cycling in the city, helped by a transport commissioner who had put in a lot of cycle lanes, and closed part of Broadway, and sections of various other streets and  squares, is booming and it was amazing yesterday walking along the southern end of Broadway how many pedestrians there are. There are possibly plans to pedestrianise the whole of it, which would make sense as it is a kind of diagonal which makes phasing the traffic lights on the grid pattern more difficult. So it is a win win. But it is, as ever, difficult to persuade the petrolheads.

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