True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

No 76: so you want to buy a ticket in advance?; A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
Click to follow
There used to be a single telephone number, 0800 450450 for booking tickets on all InterCity trains. Recently, without publicity, the number has been discontinued because of privatisation, and callers are referred to a long list of alternatives with a different number for all seven former InterCity lines (Gatwick Express seems to have been omitted entirely).

The message presupposes that callers know what line their destination is on and also that they are quick at taking down a list of very unmemorable phone numbers such as 0990 136107 (Cross Country). Four of the numbers have codes that allow callers to pay the local rate, one is a freephone number (Midland Main Line 0800 125222), but the other two require long- distance calls (unless one happens to live in Plymouth or Norwich and wants to travel on the relevant line).

The "Mad" column attempted to get through to all the numbers but has only limited time and patience. Only Midland Main Line answered within three minutes and, interestingly, they said they were able to provide tickets for all InterCity lines, but it takes seven days to send out the tickets.

"The Independent on Sunday's Great British Rail Disaster" by Christian Wolmar, which includes more than 60 items from this column, has just been published by Ian Allan at pounds 5 99. If you have difficulty obtaining a copy, send a cheque or postal order, or a Visa/Access authorisation, to: The Great British Railway Disaster, Ian Allan Ltd, Coombelands House, Coombelands Lane, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 1HY. (Tel: 01932 855909 ex 235/236).