First privatised train in 50 years will be a bus

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The Independent Online
Britain's first privatised train for 50 years, due to run this Sunday, will be a bus. In a situation familiar to weekend travellers, engineering works have forced Great Western Trains to operate a replacement bus service on the route from Fishguard to Cardiff.

Department of Transport officials have been desperately trying to find a time to transfer the first three passenger rail franchises to the private sector and have decided on 2am this Sunday when the late-night trains have stopped running.

To minimise legal complications, they need to make the transfer at a time when no trains are operating - but they overlooked the problem of the 1.50am from Fishguard to London Paddington.

The service, for passengers coming off the Irish ferry, has been replaced by a bus because of engineering works until it reaches Cardiff and it will, according to a man from the ministry, "start as a public service and at some point during the journey it will transfer into the private sector".

The group of passengers on the first private service since the railways were nationalised in 1948 will continue their journey at Cardiff on the 5.30am to Paddington. By that time the first privatised train passengers (as opposed to bus train passengers) will have left Twickenham station at 5.10am on the South West Trains service to Waterloo.

The Department of Transport spokesman said: "Provided the franchise transfers do go ahead, the 5.10am service from Twickenham will be the first privatised service to start as a train and end as a train."

The big day will be a continued source of embarrassment for Great Western because it is also having to run bus services from its headquarters at Swindon to Reading all day on Sunday as a result of of engineering works.

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