True stories from the Great Railway Disaster; No 64: so you want a reserved seat?

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme
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The Independent Online
EVERY day, three trains travel from Carmathen to Waterloo via Cardiff, Bristol and Bath, and back, on a service introduced a year ago by Regional Railways South Wales & West. They involve compulsory seat reservations because the service is primarily intended for people connecting to Eurostar services at Waterloo.

While there are no problems on the trains up to London, when the reservation slips are placed properly on the back of the seats, Marcus Lloyd recently got on the train back to Wales with a party of 10 friends to find that there was nothing on the seats to indicate which were reserved. Inevitably, people were already sitting on Mr Lloyd's seats.

Having asked the guard why there were no reservation slips on the seats, Mr Lloyd was told that South West & Waleshad no staff at Waterloo and therefore there was no one to do the job. Moreover, none of the other train operating companies running services from Waterloo was prepared to take on the task.

"The choice was to make a big fuss and get everybody moved, or to split up and sit elsewhere, which we did," says Mr Lloyd.

n The Independent on Sunday's Great British Rail Disaster by Christian Wolmar, which includes 60 items from this column, is to be published in late May by Ian Allan at pounds 5.99. Independent on Sunday readers can obtain pre-publication copies of the book at the special price of pounds 4.99 by sending a cheque or postal order, or a Visa/Access authorisation, to: The Great British Railway Disaster, Ian Allan Ltd, Coombelands House, Coombelands Lane, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 1HY. Cheques will not be cashed until the books are dispatched just after publication.

Examples of railway folly should be sent in envelopes marked "Mad" to:

Christian Wolmar, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.