True stories from the Great Railway Disaster; A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme

No 82: so you want to find out if your train has been cancelled?
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The Independent Online
Brian Jenkins is a regular rail commuter betwen Redhill and Kensington Olympia, which involves a change at Clapham Junction. The service between Clapham and Olympia is run by North London Railways. Before NLR took over two years ago, it was operated by reliable electric trains. Not any longer.

NLR extended the service to Willesden, which was not electrified, and therefore the trains reverted to diesel stock. Mr Jenkins reports that the services "are frequently cancelled", with sometimes up to half the trains, in what should be a 30-minute schedule, not running.

But passengers waiting at Clapham are not informed of delays or cancellations because NLR has no staff at the station, which is run by South West Trains. Mr Jenkins says: "We have to rely on staff employed by South West Trains to shout across any information from the opposite platform, and because they don't care about other company's customers, they rarely bother."

Mr Jenkins eventually wrote to complain and, after a lengthy correspondence, received an apology from NLR, which said there was hardly anything they could do about the trains, the track or the station staff because they were all controlled by other companies. Mr Jenkins was also told that because he bought his season ticket at Redhill, which was controlled by Network SouthCentral, and the service he complained about was run by NLR, he was not entitled to compensation. However, as a gesture of goodwill, NLR sent him pounds 20 in vouchers.

"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 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).