True stories from the Great Railway Disaster; No 73: so you don't want to sit at Doncaster for 40 minutes?

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The Independent Online
Through lack of co-ordination, both the West Coast and East Coast main lines to Scotland were due to undergo engineering work on the recent Bank Holiday weekend. Neal Ascherson chose the best of a bad lot by taking the inaptly named Flying Scotsman on the East Coast line to Glasgow which was due to take seven hours, rather than eight on the West Coast.

At midday the train reached Doncaster, where it was annouced that it would wait for 40 minutes. On asking why, Mr Ascherson was told that in fact there was no engineering work, but Railtrack had not informed East Coast in time for the timetable to be readjusted, so the Flying Scotsman had reached Doncaster 42 minutes before its planned departure time of 12.42pm. However, as Railtrack charges East Coast pounds 40 per minute for use of its track - when it is in motion - it was economically necessary to stop, incurring no extra charge.

Mr Ascherson was told that the train would then be able to proceed at full speed, which was the most economic way to use the rails, as opposed to slower movement, when Railtrack charges more because of the extra time it takes. Mr Ascherson adds: "East Coast's publicity calls it Britain's fastest railway".

n "The Independent on Sunday's Great British Rail Disaster" by Christian Wolmar, which includes 60 items from this column, is published this week by Ian Allan at pounds 5 99. If you have difficulty obtaining a copy, send 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.