True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme; No 49: so you want to charter a train?
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The Independent Online
ONE OF the hidden casualties of rail privatisation has been the charter train. Many organisations which used to charter trains for trips to London or seaside towns have found that the price has increased exponentially, deterring them from making the journey.

One such is the Bournemouth Rail Travel Association which until recently used to charter trains to London and charge its members around pounds 12 return. No longer. When the association tried to charter a train recently, it was told that the fee for a 472-seater train had more than doubled to pounds 9,500, which works out at over pounds 20 per seat before any administrative charges are taken into account. So the association cancelled its proposed trip with its spokesman saying the new situation "was the economics of the madhouse".

George Willey of the Swanage Advertiser who questioned South West Trains on this increase was told by the company that it cannot make an accurate estimate of the cost of providing a train because "there are six departments involved, each setting its own charges and each having to make a profit".

The Department of Transport's explanation is that charter trains were, in the past, subsidised and this is why prices have gone up now that subsidies have been removed.

Mr Willey, however, sees it differently. He says: "The new motto of the railways must be `don't let the train take the strain'."