FROM an Arctic train in Alaska to a railway at the “crossroads of the world”, Chris Tarrant has racked up the rail miles for his new series about extreme train journeys.
The former Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? host also heads deep into Argentine Patagonia and Scandinavia for the Channel 5 show.
But he is clear about who is top of the tracks.
“Japan has the most- fantastic railways on Earth — clean, incredibly quiet and just extraordinary,” reveals Chris.
“Every train we went on, arrived exactly, to the second, on time.
“I got back from Japan on a Saturday and I had to go to Manchester on a Sunday to make a commercial. I got the train in the evening from London, and it was 45 minutes late.
“When I got there, as we came up to the station, the bloke said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I can only apologise, the train will be delayed here for another 45 minutes because of late-running engineering works.’
“So it was about an hour and a half late, and everybody went: ‘Oh an hour and a half, not too bad, we’re all British, this is what it’s like.’ It shouldn’t be.”
He was, however, pleasantly surprised by his visit to Argentina.
“Because of the Falklands War, and because every time England and Argentina play football somebody cheats, somebody is sent off and it’s always a feisty game, I thought: ‘They’re just going to hate us, I bet the Argentinians hate us,’” he says.
“I didn’t expect to like Argentina at all. But they were lovely, so nice to us, so friendly, so welcoming.
“I had this vision of Buenos Aires as a dangerous city with a lot of crime. It’s beautiful. Great big wide avenues with trees everywhere, a stunning city.
“I love how railways open up access to parts of the world, and to people that without the railway, just couldn’t get around.
“We take it for granted, but in many countries, there are no roads, there’s no way through the jungle or mountains,” says the father-of-four.
“Somewhere like the Congo, somewhere like Bolivia, without the trains, they’d be absolutely stuck.”
Chris revealed that he recently turned 70, and his family threw him an incredible surprise party.
“I had the most amazing party, which my missus and my kids had been planning for six months,” he recalls.
“I walked into this room for what I thought was going to be a quiet meal, and there were about 500 people there, all wearing Chris Tarrant masks.
“It was absolutely brilliant, and people like Michael Aspel, Lenny Henry, Mike Rutherford from Genesis, Paul McKenna, Jimmy Tarbuck — this list of people got up on stage to talk about me. It was just the most amazing night.”