Great Railway Fiascos No 14: The slowest, dirtiest train in the West

AS TRAIN journeys go, the contrast was as glaring as Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. In France, Paul Quest enjoyed reliability, punctuality and comfort as the TGV hurtled along, leaving each station on time and arriving to the minute.

But in Britain the following day, travelling between Plymouth and Taunton, the retired teacher experienced a two-hour delay in antiquated carriages filled with the smell of blocked toilets. "The contrast was a stunning one," said Mr Quest, 61, who on July 24 set off from La Rochelle, bound for Roscoff to catch a ferry across the Channel.

"I watched in admiration as a long sleek TGV pulled quietly into the station," he said. "I settled into my reserved seat and relaxed as, quietly and comfortably, my journey commenced. I had three changes to make but there was no anxiety as each train arrived and departed promptly. I arrived in Roscoff refreshed and relaxed."

The picture in Britain was completely different. To start with, Mr Quest arrived in Plymouth only to find the station closed. When staff eventually turned up after nearly an hour "we were gruffly told that they could open the station at any time they liked on Sunday morning".

But things really started to go wrong once Mr Quest got on to the train. An announcement came that there would be a delay of 15 minutes. "I made a bet with a colleague that it would be more like 30. I should have said 90 as, an hour and a half later, we were still sitting on the train. The toilets on the train did not work and there was no air-conditioning. The conductor apologised for these, claiming that both were caused by old rolling stock."

The train eventually left two hours late. When Mr Quest expressed his concern to the conductor about his missed connection in Taunton, he was reassured that a taxi had been ordered to take him to his home in Yatton. But once in Taunton, the station manager said he had no knowledge of any such arrangement.

Mr Quest was also angry about the fare, which he said did not reflect the poor quality of the service. "As a senior citizen, my journey in France had cost pounds 23," he said. "My journey in England had cost pounds 19.50, for half the distance. I note that both Railtrack and Great Western Trains have increased their profits this year. At whose expense?"

First Great Western said the delay was due to a broken track outside Plymouth.

Do you have your own story of a railway fiasco? Write to: Great Railway Fiascos, The Independent Newsdesk, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Or e-mail

newseditor@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada