“It’s all there – great access, hours and hours of footage. What it lacks is memorable characters.” Read on for the verdict on last night’s TV.

The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track

The Railway: Keeping Britain On Track, BBC2

“Kevin Whately’s flat narration is about right. As television it’s quite good. Three or four stars if it were a hotel. Bronze medal TV. It’s not the fault of the people who made it; it’s all there – great access, hours and hours of footage, I’m sure, a good hierarchical range. What it lacks is memorable characters – either really dreadful, or really amazing. And drama.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

“If you were waiting for a coherent account of why Britain’s rail network seems to struggle you would have waited a long time. Like a lot of these kind of observational documentaries The Railway at times seemed to suffer from ADHD. You’d think you were on the brink of some kind of systemic explanation, but then it would get distracted. “Hey! Look. It’s a man with a red balloon!” There’s an avidity for characterful oddity that can get it in the way of any larger understanding. But people and characters do come through strongly.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“The documentary reminded me of Molly Dineen’s 1989 film, Heart of the Angel, about the old Angel Islington Tube station. Dan Snow and Michael Portillo may see romance and adventure on the railways; I see merely the triumph of the human spirit.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

“Manipulative. It wanted you to see things from the perspective of the stoical people who run King’s Cross…But this was one sided. Where was the perspective of the cattle? The truth is that train travel in this country is outrageously expensive and, in peak times, horribly overcrowded.”
Nigel Farndale, The Telegraph 

The Year Britain Flooded, C4

“The Year Britain Flooded occasionally hinted that it might offer a higher-order analysis of why 2012 was such a terrible year for inundations and downpours but didn’t actually deliver either, preferring just to show you lots of mobile-phone footage of water cascading down staircases.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“Compiled mainly from amateur video, this film lacked only the production values to qualify it as a disaster movie… The programme, which was assiduous in its use of diagrams to explain the micro-causes of flooding, slid away from the global warming debate, but made one thing clear: Met men warn there’s more to come.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

“A memorable journey, not least because it clattered between moments of great tenderness and intervals that made you as depressed as only a large British public institution can… Overall, for better or for worse, the King’s Cross staff emerged looking decidedly more human than they might seem to most passengers.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express