I SEEM to mention an increasing amount of Channel 5 programmes these days. What can it mean? Is the channel improving, or are my standards slipping? Well, let’s not answer that question as it reeks of snobbery. Let’s just say, hey, this show looks good!

Chris Tarrant (remember him?) is the opposite of Michael Portillo in this railway series. Portillo is dapper and genteel, taking in culture and history, whereas Tarrant is a bit more gung-ho.

In the first of this new series, Tarrant isn’t sampling fine wines in a Mediterranean square. Instead he’s slapping on the sunscreen and journeying by rail across Morocco, and his mission is to find whether a rail line ever existed across the Sahara desert all the way to Timbuktu.

He stops at Morocco’s famous cities of Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh, and starts off wary of African trains, some of which have been dirty and dangerous.


IN this last episode, Perkins starts in the great and expanding city of Patna, which was once home to “the imperial drug lords” of the British Empire who ran the opium trade here.

She visits a school where young women are studying engineering, and are hard at work learning to drive trains and build bridges. “Back off, lads! I know how to do this!” says Sue, exulting in how strong and ambitious these girls are. She says they demonstrate how much India has changed in one generation. But she moves on to a place which reminds us India is not all about ambition and advance. She visits a children’s shelter in Kolkata where the city’s many street kids hope for a scrap of safety. “I just want a good sleep at night in a safe place,” says one.

Sue ends her journey at the Bay of Bengal where she learns about efforts to save the Bengal tiger, and we wonder why the street children don’t get the same level of effort and attention.