True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme; No 85: so you want to phone for information?
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The Independent Online
The telephone train enquiry system seems to be in a particularly parlous state after all the shenanigans around privatisation. Mad has already reported on what happened to the InterCity telephone information services (No 76) but other enquirers are suffering the same fate of not finding anyone to give them information.

Audrey Kennett, of west London, recently wanted to take a train from Victoria and spent several days trying to call the enquiries number given in the phone book but never got a reply. Two other numbers for the service were either permanently engaged or never answered. Eventually, having a couple of weeks before she needed to take the train, she wrote to the manager's office at Victoria asking for someone to call her. When an operator did so, she told him of her difficulties and he said: "Yes, it's most unfortunate but we no longer have any control over that aspect of the service."

Mr R Beddow, of Bristol, tried to phone Preston station for information about extra trains during the golf championship at Lytham St Annes, but could not do so. Directory enquiries for Preston station gave him an 0345 number which led him back to the Bristol enquiry office. When he got through, they were unable to give him information on extra trains. He was finally rescued by seeing in the Independent that there was a Liverpool number giving information about getting to the golf and found that there were extra trains which proved to be a better form of travel than driving.

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 ext. 235/236).