WITH passengers which often include rowdy football fans, plus boozy stag and hen parties, the average high-speed trains is no stranger to scenes of near-anarchy.

But rarely can an East Coast service from London King's Cross to Darlington ever have been the venue for such good-natured, jovial chaos.

Wednesday's (June 11) 11.30am northbound service was designated as the Comedy Train, with the dual purpose of raising funds for the Railway Children charity and promoting next month's Darlington Comedy Festival.

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Middlesbrough comedian Patrick Monahan assumed the role of entertainer-in-chief with aplomb, giving an all-action performance for the entire duration of the three-hour journey.

The 37-year-old based himself in coach H, performing excerpts from his act and off-the-cuff comedy with commuters and competition winners.

Mother and son Alison and Dominic Charlton, from Darlington, won tickets for the journey in a Northern Echo competition and took their place on the 'front row' for the gig.

Monahan encouraged more passengers from other areas of the train to get involved in the fun by making frequent ad-libbed announcements on the train's public address system.

Among the comedic highlights were a spot of match-making between lovelorn passengers and tales of a dog that went to the toilet no fewer than eight times during a three-mile walk.

Marine biology student Emma Baruh, from Newcastle University, won tickets for the Comedy Train by tweeting East Coast with her best joke - how many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh? Ten tickles.

Not content with entertaining audience members in the coach H, the comedian marauded up and down the train collecting donations for Railway Children, which helps street children at home and abroad.

Generous commuters swelled the charity's coffers by some several hundred pounds.

Mr Monahan left the train at Darlington, a mere pit-stop on route to a show in Newcastle.

Speaking on the platform in Darlington, he said: "I travel on trains seven times a week when I'm going to gigs and they're normally quite chilled out, I like to read the paper and prepare for shows.

"This journey was the most fun, surreal one I've ever had, running around constantly trying to entertain people, like a live-action version of an in-flight movie.

"It was good fun, I was thinking London to Darlington was a long journey to be perfoming all that time, but it actually flew by.

"When we got past Doncaster, I was thinking I still had another hour and a half of stuff I wanted to talk to people about, but the time ticked away too quickly.

"With a comedy audience, people know what to expect, but with this, people were just on their way to work or whatever, so I was expecting people to walk out, but everyone was lovely."

The Comedy Train was the brainchild John Stevens of Darlington Comedy Festival, who approached East Coast with the idea.

Also on board were Derek and Milly Hicks from Consett, County Durham, who were returning from a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Mr Hicks said: "Could it catch on? I don't see why not, it's been very entertaining and helped the pass the journey."

The third annual Darlington Comedy Festival runs throughout July. For details, visit darlingtoncomedyfestival.co.uk and for more information about the charity, visit railwaychildren.org.uk