Train operators refuse to provide extra services for golden jubilee celebrations

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The Independent Online

Train companies are refusing to put on extra services for the Queen's golden jubilee celebrations in the summer unless they receive money "up front".

Operators have told rail chiefs that there is no question of laying on longer trains or adding to the timetable without substantial financial guarantees, partly because they believe the weekend of festivities may turn out to be a "damp squib".

Officials have tried to persuade the companies to provide more services to and from London for those attending plays, pageants and concerts during the long jubilee weekend from 1 June to 4 June. Among the train operators involved in negotiations with the Strategic Rail Authority are South West Trains and Connex, the two busiest commuter operators in the country.

There is also considerable doubt over what Tube services will be running. Asked yesterday what the timetable would be, London Underground, still part of the government- controlled London Transport Board, said it would be a matter for the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Officials at Mr Livingstone's office said there was no firm date for their assumption of responsibility for the Tube system because of their resistance to the public-private partnership for the network given approval last Thursday by ministers.

Another official at London Underground said jubilee arrangements were the responsibility of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The assumption is, however, that if the "overground" lines are not running extra trains during the night, there would be no reason to provide extra Tube services to match up with them. The failure to provide extra transport could mean sparse attendance at some events.

Train operators are concerned that the muted public reaction to the death of Princess Margaret on Saturday could be a foretaste of the response to the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Queen's accession. The unseemly wrangle over cash places another shadow over the jubilee celebrations, which are already said to be at risk of falling victim to apathy.

Stewart Francis, chairman of the Rail Passengers' Council, said the basic principle should be that trains were provided when passengers wanted them. "If they cannot be run profitably, then a deal should be struck between the train operators and the SRA," he said.

The spring bank holiday is being moved from 27 May to 4 June, while 3 June is an extra holiday.