Great Railway Fiascos No 12: No light at end of the tunnel

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DUNCAN HOOPER had heard of rail travellers being left in the dark over train delays. But nothing had prepared him for travelling by night in pitch-black carriages with hardly any standing room.

"As a regular rail user I am accustomed to delays and inconveniences, but there could be no predicting this extraordinary ordeal," said Mr Hooper, 20, an English student.

The 90-minute journey was prolonged by 30 minutes after the train over- shot Oxford and he had to get off at the next station and backtrack.

Mr Hooper's troubles began in Leamington Spa, where he was forced to catch a Virgin train to Oxford after all trains to Birmingham International were cancelled due to works.

"For over an hour, I sat on the platform awaiting the delayed train as the station grew colder and darker.

"But the relief with which I eventually boarded it was short lived as two things became obvious. Firstly the lights were not working. This however, was not enough to conceal the second problem, for the illumination from the station showed that all the seats were taken.

"With my bag in my arms I managed to take up a position rammed between the internal sliding doors of the carriage." The "only slight alleviation" to the misery was the humour of public announcements requesting that the manager defuse passengers' anger.

The buffet car staff, who were taking the brunt of the displeasure, first described passengers as "upset", then "very, very upset" and finally "extremely angry".

"With hindsight, it is probably a good thing the train manager did not show her face - a riot on board would only have caused further delays."

Mr Hooper has received an apology and pounds 17 in vouchers from Virgin in compensation.

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