True stories from the Great Railway Disaster; No 38: So that's why trains use motorways

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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THE SIGHT of locomotives being hauled slowly and perilously along motorways is becoming more frequent since the break-up of the railways. No fewer than a dozen readers sent in local newspaper cuttings or their own accounts of a recent move of an InterCity 125 locomotive from Plymouth. The stricken locomotive was being sent 250 miles for a refit to Crewe, but, rather than having another locomotive to tow it along the rails, it was being sent on a lorry.

The reason, of course, is that Railtrack charges so much for access to the rail network that it is cheaper for the repairers, ABB, to transport the train by road, irrespective of the congestion and danger this causes to other road users.

A spokesman for ABB told the Evening Herald in Plymouth that the company sent trains "whichever way is cheaper", adding that "in this instance it was cheaper to send it by road". One reader who sent a cutting, Stephen Gale of Brixham, suggested that Railtrack should be renamed "Surrealtrack".

Other readers have also spotted trains on motorways. During the summer, Alan Pugh of Llandudno saw two low-loaders carrying both carriages of a two-coach diesel unit along the M6 near Stoke, causing chaotic traffic conditions. Perhaps it's all a plot to make people use the trains..