Great Railway Fiascos: How could a train possibly run out of fuel?

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A sample of letters received by The Independent complaining about Virgin Trains.

JENNY KINGHAM of Saltdean, Brighton, says she was on Virgin's "ill-fated" Edinburgh Express from Brighton to Stockport with no air- conditioning, no lighting, no announcements and no hot water for tea. But worse was to come when the train ran out of fuel near Gatwick.

Ms Kingham says it was more than two hours before a spare locomotive arrived to rescue the train.

"How can a train engine run out of fuel?" she wrote. "It's like a post office running out of stamps, a bakery running out of flour, a swimming pool running out of water. How dare you, Virgin trains, do this to your passengers - treating them in such a derisory manner."

DAVID BENNETT, of Oakham, saw a meeting with important clients come and go after a fellow traveller got trapped in the toilets, causing the whole train to break down.

"Because the train was in a very poor state of repair, one of the passengers had become trapped in a toilet," wrote Mr Bennett. "The unfortunate trapped passenger pulled the communication cord. This, as you would expect, stopped the train. The resulting delay would not have been so bad - as we were already extremely late - except that although the passenger was finally released, the emergency brake couldn't be freed."

THE ONLY way Erica Schumacher, 86, could be guaranteed a seat on the usually crowded service from Didcot to Warrington was to buy a first-class ticket, which she did. "The train arrived. No first class. Neither at the front nor the back nor anywhere," said Francis Gladstone, her son- in-law, who wrote on her behalf.

He added: "The Virgin traveller has seen it all: late trains, very late trains, very, very late trains, very late trains without air, without heat, without cool, without liquid, catering carts pushed in front of train telephones, rude ticket inspectors.

"I even know someone who bought a mobile phone simply because they travel on Virgin."

HILDA GYI, 66, who suffers from severe migraines, was forced to stand for nearly two hours in over-crowded carriages after her Virgin train from Cheltenham to Manchester was cancelled and all reservations on the replacement service - which arrived two hours later - were declared void.

Police officers with dogs had to be called after a group of angry morris dancers who had reserved a full coach in the cancelled train blocked the tracks in a sign of protest.

Writing on Mrs Gyi's behalf, her son, Jeffrey, said: "She suffers from migraines and the tiredness triggered an attack. Virgin Trains gave her vouchers to the value of her ticket. It was not proper compensation for the delay, stress and the migraine, which lasted well into the subsequent holiday."