Great Railway Fiascos No 3: Day at sea for sardines of Leicester

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The Independent Online
THE BANK holiday rush to the seaside is as British as cricket and crumpets. But train operators are still failing to cater for the seasonal crowds - as John and Wendy Burrows found out to their cost.

The Burrows were forced to endure the suffocating crush of overcrowded trains on a day trip to Skegness in Lincoln-shire. Mr Burrows, 58, a church verger, and his wife, 53, had woken at dawn and packed "enough things in case of rain".

By 7.04am, they had boarded a train from Leicester to Skegness and were looking foward to fish and chips. Two and half hours later, Mr and Mrs Burrows arrived, frazzled. They had been forced to squeeze into a two- carriage train, hopelessly inadequate for the extra May Day traffic.

"Everyone was stoically British," Mr Burrows said. "It was a case of live and let live because we had to. Skegness is like Leicester-by-the- Sea. In the days of Good Old British Rail, special 10 or 12-carriage trains were laid on to cope.

"But that day Central Trains had made no concessions whatsoever. With Leicester's holiday crowd aboard, it was fairly full. On arrival at Nottingham the two cars were packed, at Grantham dangerously overcrowded, at Sleaford and Boston suffocating."

The return trip was worse. The cautious Burrows arrived almost two hours early for their 5.47pm train home. "We were first in line but soon there were 200 people queuing behind us."

Complaints to the duty manager proved fruitless. He could not move a carriage from another train. By the time they departed the train was bursting to the brim.

And in three weeks, travellers all over the country will be forced to cram into overloaded carriages as another work-free Monday generates travel beyond the call of duty.

Gerard Burgess, of Central Trains, said: "I can't put my hand on my heart and say that anybody travelling to the coast on a bank holiday will have an easy run. It is the nature of bank holidays and has been since the 19th century."

Mr Burgess said train operators were victims of a sharp growth in passenger numbers and a lack of rolling stock. "I have a great deal of sympathy for the Burrows. It is a horrible and uncomfortable experience. We are not making excuses. We want to do better. Bank holidays are busy and have been since steam trains. If we had extra carriages we would put them on. But we have no slack."

Mr Burgess said Central had a 9 per cent traffic rise without added trains, but the company has invested pounds 74m in 33 new trains.

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