There is nothing like the joy of a train ride in the Philippines. The feeling of the wind blowing through open windows - and open doors. The packed seats make it feel like people are lying across your lap. And was that a pig somebody parked in the toilet? Needless to say rail travel here needs some work. It wasn't always this way: in the late 19th century the main island of Luzon already had a modest but decent service. Manila had streetcars, horse-drawn vehicles under the Spaniards and they were electric powered under the Americans, who improved the long-distance system. The second world war ravages eradicated this system and rail travel never recovered. Swarms of jeepneys replaced Manila's streetcars while long-distance trucks and buses edged out the express trains. A provincial train ride now is recommended only for the adventurous or extremely patient. The crowded carriages are rattletraps; passengers dangle from open doors and jump off when the train slows down. Not quite Germany's InterCity Express or France's high-speed TGV. Stations are rundown relics, the tracks are poorly maintained and signals are so unreliable that occasionally two trains find they are on the same track - but it is okay, they move so slowly they have time to stop. Squatters' houses are so close to the rails that this is probably the only country where a passenger can jump off a commuter train and land in his living room. Some carriages have sharply angled roofs to deflect garbage thrown out of houses as the train passes. There are a few bright spots. Manila is now partially served by an efficient and modern elevated transit system. And the government seems to realise that a well-run train system would be better than the clustered pandemonium that passes for road transport. It has plans for a US$503 million project, with China lending $400 million, to build a 32km rail system from Manila to a nearby northern province. With another project on the boards to fix the southern network, the government says it is committed to building a 'seamless' mass transport system. But there are two disturbing developments: desperate to raise funds, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered that all railway tracks in Manila be sold - a move that will hinder attempts to create a 'seamless' grid. More ominous is Mrs Arroyo's choice of administrator for the city's light railway transit system. The man apparently appointed has no experience in business or management, but he is a former choir master of a religious group said to have supported Mrs Arroyo's presidential campaign. Now that is real railroading.