Letter: Disastrous railway

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Sir: National transport is in the nature of a public service, which should be maintained and run in the public interest. Surely it is little short of a double disaster that, instead of having an overall national transport policy, British Rail was privatised under the Conservatives and has not been renationalised under Labour.

Last weekend I travelled from London to Fort William on the overnight sleeper service. We had booked first class but had to sleep in second- class sleepers because they had omitted to fold up the extra bunks in both cabins and the steward had no key to make the necessary adjustments.

The complimentary breakfast has so deteriorated since privatisation that the croissant has been substituted by a virtually inedible so-called "Belgian truffle"; butter has been substituted by a concocted cheese spread; no jam or marmalade any more; plates have been withdrawn so that we now have to eat off the tray; cups and saucers have also been withdrawn, replaced by a thin plastic mug, as also the cutlery, replaced by a plastic knife and spoon; the glass previously provided for cleaning one's teeth had been substituted by a plastic mug, so thin and brittle that it broke.

The door between our compartments was so damaged that we had to wedge it with newspaper. One basin was damaged. The restaurant car had been taken off and in its place was a coach loaded with mattresses.

Service by the stewards and stewardesses was, however, excellent and they were most apologetic about the eroding standards.

PETER F CARTER-RUCK

London EC4

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