True stories from the Great Railway Disaster; No 32: so you want to go to Oban for a cruise?

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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The Independent Online
HEBRIDEAN Island Cruises used to encourage its passengers to buy "all-inclusive rail packages" to reach its ship, the MV Hebridean Princess, at Oban on Scotland's West Coast. No longer. It has just sent out a letter to its customers warning them not to use the railway any longer.

It says that, as "British Rail are rearranging their procedure in preparation for privatisation, regrettably everything we hear at this time leads us to believe that, in the short term, there is nothing on offer other than an increasing array of difficulties for travellers."

Two particular problems have arisen. It used to be possible for those buying Hebridean Island's all-inclusive rail packages to travel across London in time to get the 10am train from King's Cross to Glasgow. This is no longer possible if they are coming from south of London, as these tickets are no longer accepted in the morning rush hour. This is a consequence of the division of BR into 25 separate train operating companies which apply different rules on accepting cheap tickets.

Secondly, Hebridean Island says that BR will no longer allow a refund of the cost of the rail travel or permit it to issue revised tickets unless, according to BR, "the reason for cancellation involves cancellation of the whole holiday package".

The company's letter says that "since it becomes clear that the privatisation of BR will, at least in the short term, provide travellers with an inferior service, we can only recommend that whenever possible guests should consider the option of travel by other services."

Clearly there'll be more cars on the road to Oban in future, and more people flying to Scotland.

Thanks to Noel Harvey for contributing this tale.

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