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Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 12:01 am

Tracked classes

Over the years I’ve ridden trains of one kind or another as often as I ride horses, and like all passengers have had my share of ideas about how to improve service. Until Illinois gets a genuinely high-speed service between Springfield and St. Louis and Chicago, the biggest problem facing the rail passenger is how to kill time.

I was interested therefore to read this from The Economist’s travel blogger, Gulliver.

Commuters traveling into Paris on certain high-speed routes from Champagne-Ardennes, a region to the east, are able to spend their journeys in English classes.

It’s part of a program that SNCF, the state-owned railway, started in September with a company called English on Track. The teacher reserves up to six seats in a part of the TGV where no passengers pass through, so the student-commuters sit together in a bit of peace.

These are real classes. (The standard courses are 40 classes of 45 minutes, or 30 classes of 60 minutes, and cost $930.) Amtrak might consider offering classes in mastering new (if less demanding) skills on its Springfield to Chicago runs. How to use public transit, perhaps, or lectures on art shows and museum exhibits in town.

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