True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme; No 65: so is it better to take the bus?
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The Independent Online
WHEN South West Trains was privatised in February, Stagecoach, the new operator, promised that there would be new buses to link in towns with no stations to its train services. One such new bus service - called Rail-Link - runs eastwards from Romsey to Winchester in Hampshire and costs pounds 1.80 each way. The leaflet advertising it says that the Rail-Link bus goes to Winchester "for train connections to London Waterloo, the South West, West, the North of England and Scotland".

But Rob Marlow of Romsey has discovered that the Rail-Link bus is not necessarily the best way to get to many parts of the South West and West because Romsey has a station of its own, on the South Wales and West line, which runs from the coast to Salisbury and beyond. He says that if a traveller wanted to go to, say, Exeter, they would be much better off taking the Romsey train to Salisbury and changing there, rather than taking the bus to Winchester, a train to Basingstoke, and then changing for Exeter. He adds that the journey to Salisbury is only 20 minutes, half an hour quicker than the train from Winchester, not including the time wasted taking the bus in the wrong direction. It is also about pounds 10 cheaper to go to Exeter direct from Romsey.

Mr Marlow says: "A traveller unfamiliar with rail routes and timetables, such as a tourist, may be misled by the Rail-Link bus and waste a lot of time travelling unnecessarily. The leaflet should explain precisely when it is best to take the bus rather than the train. There are many other destinations in the West and South West, as well as in the North and Scotland where taking the bus is a waste of time."

He said that the leaflet makes no mention of the fact that Romsey has a station, even though it shows the ones in Winchester and Basingstoke.

The Independent on Sunday's Great British Rail Disaster by Christian Wolmar, which includes 60 items from this column, is to be published in late May by Ian Allan at pounds 5.99. Readers can obtain copies for pounds 4.99 by sending a cheque or postal order, or a Visa/Access authorisation, to the Great British Railway Disaster, Ian Allan Ltd, Coombelands House, Coombelands Lane, Addlestone, KT15 1HY. Cheques will not be cashed until the books are despatched just after publication.

Examples of railway folly should be sent in envelopes marked "Mad" to:

Christian Wolmar, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.