True stories from the Great Railway Disaster: No 40: so you missed your last train?

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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The Independent Online
DAVID WILKINS had a madder journey than most on his way from Sheffield to the village of Tisbury in Wiltshire which necessitated changes at Bristol and Salisbury. The train between these two stations was delayed for 80 minutes, making Mr Wilkins miss the last train from Salisbury to Tisbury. He was assured that he would be put in a taxi from Salisbury at BR's expense, but when he finally reached the station, the duty manager said he was unable to help because missing the connection had been the fault of the Bristol train, and "they're Regional Railways and we're South West Trains".

However, Mr Wilkins managed to persuade the manager to ring Bristol where "fortunately somebody agreed to reimburse Salisbury station for my taxi fare".

While waiting at Bristol Mr Wilkins discovered another interesting facet of commercialisation. Along with the passengers waiting for the train to arrive was a woman with a fully laden buffet trolley who was going to board the service.Mr Wilkins, desperate for a cup of tea, asked to buy one, but the woman said she was not allowed to sell food or drinks on the platform. She said she had previously been "told off" for doing so because the company she worked for only had a contract to sell its wares on the train. Mr Wilkins tried to obtain the station duty manager's permission for her to sell him a cup of tea but, after some time, the man told Mr Wilkins that he did not "have the power" to permit her to sell to the delayed passengers.

And thank you to Mr W Kenyon of Romsey, Hants, who pointed out that the numbering of this column has been as erratic as Railtrack's timetable. For the growing number of collectors, there have been three errors: 7, 8, 7 (i e, should have been 9), 10; 27, 28, 28 (29), 29 (30), 31; 37, 38, 38 (39), 40. Unlike Railtrack, we are prepared to apologise for our mistakes.