True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme; No 16: so you want to use the toilet (part 2) ?
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ALLAN HORSFALL has been campaigning for a long time to get toilets reinstated at Bolton station after the main toilets were closed three years ago because of vandalism and lack of maintenance. He was within a whiff of success until the advent of the break-up of the railways in anticipation of privatisation.

The Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive was prepared to make a grant for improvements at Bolton station that included "a new shelter, a chargeman's office and toilet facilities, including disabled and night facilities". Although this was delayed for a couple of years because of a shortage offunds, the PTE had hoped to proceed last year, but was unable to do so (according to a Mr Woolvin, its rail services manager) because "of the changes in procedures and organisations in the run-up to privatisation".

The problem for the PTE is that if it makes a grant to improve the station, leasing charges or track access charges to the train operators may then be increased by Railtrack to reflect improvements made to the property. The PTE already pays substantial subsidies to support services in the Manchester area and it does not want to have to pay more because of grants it has given to make those improvements.

As Mr Woolvin put it, "I am sure you realise that it would be invidious if the investment of public money in funding improvements led to an increased demand for subsidy from the operators." So, until the matter is sorted out, Boltonian rail passengers will just have to hold on a bit longer.

Meanwhile, the Daily Star reports that BR has found a newuse for toilet roll. Passenger Chris Meek disputed a fare on an InterCity train between York and Leeds and the guard took down his details on toilet paper, claiming that he had no official notepaper because of cutbacks.