No 27: So, you want to run a charter train and stop at the stations?

True stories from the Great Railway Disaster; A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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THE NEW structure of the railways has created problems for rail charters, as highlighted recently in the Independent on Sunday. In response to our article, other anomalies have been pointed out, most notably the fact that trains that stop frequently are charged more than those that do not.

JMC Rail Tours used to run rail charters from Whitby to Middlesbrough along the beautiful Esk Valley line and beyond. This acted as a big attraction for people along the line which has some 16 stops, enabling many people in the villages to make the trips. No more. Each stop cost JMC pounds 52, making the charter uneconomical. Linda Lloyd, JMC director, said: "We used to charge pounds 19.50 but this put the fare up to pounds 29.50."

The charter service is now "in hibernation" while Ms Lloyd, backed by her local MP and many local people, tries to lobby Railtrack to change the system. She says the trains provided a much-needed boost to the local economy. "We also used to run trains into Whitby, bringing 500 people to the local fish-and-chip shops and souvenir shops. Now they've lost that business."

She points out that with no other trains using the line on Sundays it cannot possibly cost Railtrack more to have a stopping train. Railtrack is due to be privatised early next year.

Ironically, the Esk Valley line has just received European money to appoint a publicity officer for the line to try to boost its usage.

n We have had many requests for a collection of these columns in book form. We are currently examining the possibility, in conjunction with a publisher.