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For more than a decade I commuted every day from the city where I live to London, by train and bicycle, a journey that took two hours door to door. During this time I calculated I spent more than a year in motion, long enough to undertake almost any journey on earth. Yet this wasn’t an epic voyage, with a clearly defined beginning and end; instead it was hidden, fragmented, retraced each day to its starting point. In terms of its impact on my life it was no less significant for that. The train gave me the space and the externally imposed routine to complete three books. I imagined that when I stopped commuting and had more time at home my productivity as a writer would increase exponentially. The reverse was true. It seems that rather than needing solitude, I am a man of the crowd who thinks best while moving at speed between two points, neither here nor there. My journey, I began to realise, wasn’t over — in fact it had just begun. I approached the rail operator GWR, the host of so many of my journeys, and asked for a meeting. That is how I became their Writer on the Train…
Once I had been granted the freedom of the tracks I set out on a journey of exploration along the line from London to Bristol. What I discovered first found expression in the form of a blog. This in turn led to an approach from the digital research organisation REACT, based at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol. They offered me the opportunity to work with an app developer to make a digital piece of literature that reacted to travellers’ location using the GPS on their smartphones. These experiments in the digital, as well as the many wanderings I undertook on and off the tracks, led to the writing of my book Station to Station