TRUE STORIES FROM THE GREAT RAILWAY DISASTER

No 22: so you want to use a rival's train?; A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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The Independent Online
THE new rail companies being prepared for privatisation are going to extreme lengths to keep rivals' passengers from boarding their trains. Not opening the doors would appear to be the tactic chosen by Regional Railways, South Wales and West, on its Carmarthen to Waterloo route.

Apparently to prevent ticket holders of South West Trains from boarding the service, doors were kept locked at Basingstoke, as Martin Whitfield, from Bristol, found when he tried to get off. Apologies from the guard didn't prevent an unnecessary journey to Woking and return to Basingstoke, where staff said the RR train was a "setting down" service only. Passengers on the platform are told they aren't allowed to join the train. They must wait 20 minutes for a South West Trains service.

Ticketing arrangements on the Carmarthen-Waterloo service are byzantine. Passengers must book in advance. This can be up to 4pm the day before departure if you collect the tickets or five days before if you ask for them by post. However, travellers between certain stations don't need a reservation if they pick a day when one of 10 "counted space" reservations are available. Asked about the pro-blems of getting information from Bristol, where inquiry staff are employed by InterCity Great Western, a South Wales and West employee said: "We have difficulty in getting the message across to sell our thing, when they are trying to sell their own at the same time."

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