Strangers on a Train-2

"This programme served as a great reminder of how important the railway is to a host of people."

Richard Stanton, Comms Manager at Avanti West Coast, welcomes Alexei Sayle onboard for the recording of a new Radio Four comedy.

Richard Stanton, Communications Manager at Avanti West Coast, extols the virtues of striking up a conversation with strangers on a train. 

26 July, 2022

OK hands up! Who is old enough to remember Alexei Sayle? I know I am. If you're not or unfamiliar with his more recent work, search the web for ‘The Young Ones’ or ‘The Comic Strip Presents’ for a trip back in time.

Turns out Alexei is also from a railway family and a passionate advocate of travelling by train and therefore the perfect choice to present a new Radio Four comedy 'Strangers on a Train'.

The concept of the programme is simple. He breaks the golden rule of rail travel and starts conversations with his fellow passengers.

"Put the mobile down for a minute or two, take off your headphones and strike up a conversation with a stranger on a train."

Alexei Sayle Strangers on a Train 3

Alexi joined Avanti West Coast for two journeys. The first was a trip from London to Glasgow. On the return he also jumped into the cab of one of our Pendolinos for a chat with one of our drivers, enjoying the delights of the amazing countryside on the way down to Carlisle. It has to be one of the best office windows you could ever wish for.

A few weeks later we welcomed Alexei back for a foray into North Wales, destination Holyhead.

Working on this programme served as a great reminder to me of how important the railway is to a host of people, all from different backgrounds and with their own story to tell. Doing the rounds on the train Alexi bumped into all sorted of people including Roshny and Sharon, on holiday from Indonesia, actor and musician Alex on his way to perform in a musical in Llandudno and Kirsty who has lived most of her life on a sheep farm overlooking the stunningly beautiful Holy Loch in Argyll and Bute.

Alexei Sayle onboard

So next time you're on a journey, why not be brave and give it go? Put the mobile down for a minute or two, take off your headphones and strike up a conversation with a stranger on a train. It can really add to the travel experience.

And just to show I practice what I preach, whilst talking to Alexei, (who technically was a stranger at the time), it turns out he was one of the first comedians to ever appear at the Edinburgh Fringe, and instrumental to the world-famous event’s reinvention into the comedy festival we know and love today. You can even get there with Avanti West Coast by train!

See, it's amazing what you find out when talking to strangers on a train. If you’re not convinced have a listen to the programme.

You can catch Alexei’s trip to Scotland on BBC Sounds here. The Holyhead journey will air on Radio Four at 7pm on Sunday 7 August – more details of the series can be found here.

Radio 4 comedy series celebrating rail travel to feature Avanti West Coast routes

Images (Top to bottom): Richard and Alexei with a strangers selfie at Holyhead, Alexei's driver's eye view prior to departure from Glasgow Central, Alexei and his soundman awaiting their next stranger.