Nuisance caller: I'd like to buy a station, please

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The Independent Culture
"Hello, Bob Hill" (Railtrack's director of property). "Hello, I want to buy a station."

"Which station?"

"Clapham Junction."

"I can tell you that Railtrack wouldn't sell it."

"Are there any that it would?"

"No, because essentially all the stations where we are not the operator, which includes Clapham, have been leased to the train operating company. We are the custodians of the national network. The last thing we want to do is flog off bits of it so that the nation doesn't have a network."

"That's a shame because it has been a life-long dream to own a station. So can I approach the operators to run the station on their behalf?"

"We have no objection to our tenant getting someone else to manage the station. My personal advice is that in this time of dramatic change in the railway industry it's unlikely anyone would do anything as dramatic as that. It's a dialogue that could take place in six months' time."

"I wanted to do a complete re-development."

"Well, if you're talking about having the equity interest that's different. Then you could speak to us."

"I was thinking it should have an ice-skating rink and a theme park attached. What do you think?

"We're open to any suggestions."

"It would be nice if passengers could get off the train and into a theme park."

"The vision is one we could easily empathise with."

"Could tickets to train and theme park be linked?"

"One could envisage selling tickets to the guys down in the South and saying `Part of this ticket is to get you into the Clapham Junction Theme Park'."

"I wanted to build a private school into it."

"Private school? Nothing is impossible."

"Could I put a toll booth in the station? I would need some kind of public money."

"Er ... well local authorities couldn't fund the sort of animal you've been describing."

"And it is an animal. I'll be publishing my ideas on the Internet, but the only reason I'm doing this is because I think Clapham Junction needs a lick of paint. It's a disgrace."

"I think it's fair to say there hasn't been much investment in railway buildings in the recent past."

"It's the busiest station in the world but you wouldn't think it to look at it. It's like a shed. If the station was nicer, more people would come through."

"Every operator would agree with that. It's very much a motherhood statement."

"At the moment it just looks like a tip. Doesn't it?"

"Yes."

DOMINIC CAVENDISH

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