A vision of the future arriving at your platform: This could be our railway system in the year 2000, says Christian Wolmar
Sunday 19 July 1992
The announcement was then repeated in rather broken French. Mr and Mrs Price were worried. The train from Dorset, run by Wessex & Solent Lines, which had just been taken over by the French company SNCF, was already half an hour late, and it was clear that they would miss their connection at King's Cross, the 10.35 Ransom Express to York.
The first day of their holiday, which they planned to spend in Scarborough, had started badly. The SNCF official at Wareham in Dorset had been adamant: they could only have a ticket to York on the family Railcard, because Railcards were not accepted by Yorkshire Runner, operating the York to Scarborough line; if they bought a ticket all the way through to Scarborough, they would have to pay the full price.
At least Wareham station was still open. There had been one attempt to close the line between Weymouth and Bournemouth but the Government had said it was 'socially necessary'. But SNCF was already running down the number of trains to the minimum specified in the franchise.
As the train, in SNCF livery, was already waiting at Wareham, the Prices didn't argue about the tickets. They would have to sort it out at York.
The Prices had been warned of possible delays. Waterloo had seen a huge rise in the number of trains at rush-hour times, with many private operators seeking to run trains for commuters. They now had a right of access to the lines but it was placing intolerable pressure on platform space.
Few operators had come forward to take up one of the 35 'area franchises' being offered by British Rail. But the other side of BR's privatisation blossomed, with dozens of operators seeking to run trains at peak times.
The Prices missed their Ransom Express. The next one was not until 4pm and the man in the Ransom ticket booth was also friendly but adamant. Their ticket was valid only for the Ransom.
'Your best chance for a refund is to apply to SNCF. Under the Passengers' Charter, they are supposed to give you your money back. And look, I'm not supposed to tell you this but there are both LNER and Yorkie trains to York in the next hour, but you'll have
to buy the tickets from them.'
Mr Price sighed. Without the Railcard, the return fare from Wareham to York would have been nearly pounds 300, but he had paid only pounds 200 for himself and his wife and pounds 10 each for their two children, Mark and Carol. The Government was close to achieving its aim of near-zero inflation, but this did not apply to the railways because subsidy was being progressively removed. Fare increases had been near 10 per cent for several years.
Now he would either have to wait for the next Ransom train at 4pm or pay the pounds 90 single fare to York for himself and his wife and another pounds 30 for Mark and Carol, because neither LNER nor Yorkie, the other companies running services to York, accepted the SNCF/Ransom railcard. They chose to look at the sights of London for a few hours.
The ride to York was pleasant enough with only a slight delay, caused by a row over the track allocations on the Welwyn viaduct. Ransom apparently could not get an early slot to go across because LNER and the local services had bid more money to be allowed to use it at rush hour.
Ransom offered an airline- type meals service, pre-booked and delivered to your seat. Mr Price could have relaxed if only he had not heard rumours about Yorkshire Runner's service to Scarborough not running because of a dispute between the company and the Franchise Authority. The rumours proved only partly justified. Yorkshire Runner was in dispute over train frequency, and at present there was only one every two hours.
After a 90-minute wait, the train came along, an old diesel with standing room only.
When the family emerged bleary-eyed from Scarborough station at 10pm, Mr Price was confused. He remembered the station being close to the town centre, but the train had deposited them a mile outside town.
'Ah yes,' explained the taxi driver, 'they're moving the station because they've flogged off the old one. They're building a new Safeway . . .'
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Terrorism explanation 'cannot be ruled out', says CIA
Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...