True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme; No 52: so you want to travel as a group?
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FOR many years, Susan and Tim O'Brien have organised the travel arrangements for the Aston Villa London supporters' group. Each summer, they were sent a contract to ensure that the supporters' club qualified for the discounts available for group travel. Now life is about to get more complicated.

Tony Natchingall, the retail and customer services manager London - West Midlands, has suggested there may be a massive increase in the paperwork they have to complete.

A letter from Mr Natchingall says: "British Rail has now been split into 25 different train operating companies. It will now be necessary to sign a separate contract for each route you travel on and each contract will need to be signed by two people. The address needs to be that of the first signature and the organisation they represent." Unless the contracts are signed, no special rates will be available.

The club is also being forced to change the train which it normally takes to Birmingham for home matches. The group used to travel on the 11.05 from Euston to allow a bit of time in the pub before the match which starts at 3pm. However, InterCity West Coast has taken a coach off the Saturday trains. The explanation given was that under privatisation, each carriage resulted in extra charges being paid to Railtrack and therefore there was pressure to save money by shortening the trains.

Since the 11.05 goes on to Wolverhampton, the Wolves' London contingent want to use it and there is not room to take both supporters' groups. Therefore the O'Briens and their merry band of claret and blue supporters have to take the earlier 10.35am train which makes it difficult for their members outside London, from places such as Ramsgate and Brighton, to travel.