Training cats and dogs

February saw another railway first, when Eurotunnel carried a small party of dogs and cats from France into Britain, heralding the dismantling of Britain’s pet quarantine laws. Introduced a century ago to prevent rabies spreading from mainland Europe, the regulations looked increasingly anachronistic as cases of la rage became rarer and rarer. Despite protests by owners of quarantine kennels, the influential backers of the Passport for Pets campaign won the day. For Eurotunnel, much preparation was necessary before pets could be accepted - changes in booking systems and information leaflets, training of French ’pet checkers’, new signage and provision of caged areas. The pay-off is expected from the many British owners of French holiday properties who hated to leave their best friends at home.

Women drivers shock horror

Following enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law a year ago, Japanese women are hesitantly exercising their new rights to work unsocial hours. Labour regulations banning women from overtime and shift work made public service industries reluctant to employ them; out-of-date male attitudes didn’t help either.

Of some 41000 train drivers, there were last year only 100 or so women, confined to quiet rural routes and freight turns. Now all this is changing, with a clutch of female ’firsts’ including women shinkansen drivers on JR Central.

First to ’hit the tracks,’ according to a rather inappropriately-worded newspaper article, was Rieko Tsujiuchi who took Kodama 453 from Tokyo to Nagoya on February 16. Though no track-hitting incident was reported on this maiden journey, we recall amusing press coverage of Britain’s first female train drivers allegedly shooing birds and small animals off the tracks ahead of their trains.

Not that there is much scope for such environmentally-friendly gestures at 300 km/h.