True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities of privatisation; No 91: so you want to go a couple of stops down the line?
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The Independent Online
Jim Grozier discovered a bizarre anomaly on the Lewes-Seaford line recently. After going for a walk on the South Downs, he ended up at Newhaven Harbour station wanting to go to Southease two stops down the line, and waited for the train - but was shocked to see it thunder past without stopping. When the next one came, half an hour later, he found it did not stop at Southease. Consulting the timetable, he found that, on weekdays, one of the two daytime trains per hour stops at Newhaven Harbour and the other at Southease.

Bemused, he wrote to Network SouthCentral, the newly privatised company which runs the line. John Flower of customer relations told him that there had been reduced demand on the line and he was "sorry that the timetable appears complex" but "recently introduced contracts [with Railtrack] require us to pay for all stops made. Financial constraints have forced us to hone our flexibility and the current situation is one result".

Mr Grozier, who works in the rail industry, amused himself by trying to work out what the extra costs borne by Railtrack could possibly be if the trains stopped, and concluded that the extra electricity involved probably came to... 50p.