True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme No 4: So you want to see your way at night?
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Ruth Morgan has been pressing for some months for broken light bulbs to be replaced on the approach to her local station, Barnes in south- west London. She first noticed that the street lights on a narrow road running next to the Common were not working last November. Although not particularly paranoid about being attacked, she felt she ought to contact British Rail to inform it that half the street lights along the alley were not working. She was told by South West Trains' "customer service department" that she would have to put the complaint in writing and it would be "dealt with promptly".

Not so. Her first letter was not answered for a month and when she remonstrated with South West Trains, she was told that the delay was caused because management were not sure who owned the lights. Although the lights were the same as those on all stations, which suggested they were BR property, they might be owned by South West Trains, Railtrack or the local council. One division could not overstep its limits and replace the lights if they were not its responsibility. Asked whether this was not a bit bureaucratic for the sake of a few light bulbs, Ms Morgan was told "it is an effect of privatisation".

She was told a letter would be sent informing her of any action taken as soon as possible. In mid-January she was sent a letter informing her that the manager of Barnes station would be looking into the matter. As spring approaches, the alley is still in darkness.

And a victory! Following our item last week about Mrs Harvie who was not able to buy a Super Apex ticket from London to Glasgow at Dumbarton station, the customer relations officer, Steve Perry, has written to her to say that this was a result of "a misunderstanding that should not have arisen". Enclosing a £10 voucher for travel, he said that she would now be able to buy the ticket at Dumbarton. This was in marked contrast to his previous letter which had said "I am unable to comment further on this matter".