True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

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A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the

Government's privatisation programme

No 18: so you want to go to Birmingham slowly?

A BEDRAGGLED reader complains of a tortuous journey from London to Birmingham on a train without refreshments or air conditioning. Her misery was, in fact, a result of Railtrack's obsession with competition.

InterCity runs trains every half-hour throughout the day from London to Birmingham, with weekday journeys typically taking just under an hour- and-three-quarters. There are also regular slow trains, which take almost an hour longer because they are really intended for passengers using the intermediate local service.

For many years, therefore, BR kept secret the fact that these trains run all the way through to Birmingham. They were, instead, advertised as terminating at North-ampton, in order not to attract passengers seeking to go to Birmingham as it would always be slower for them to use the stopping service.

Enter Railtrack with its emphasis on competition. It now runs Euston station and is insisting that the trains are shown as Birmingham trains on the departure board. The stopping trains are run by North London Lines, a potential competitor of InterCity West Coast but the fares are identical.

n Would the reader from the United States who wrote asking for two past items in this series please send their address again as the letter has been mislaid!