True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

No 101: so you want the train to stop?

Mandy Webb, a regular traveller on the King's Cross-Cambridge line has twice recently been on trains that have failed to make scheduled stops. On the way into London, passengers were told, on arriving at Royston eight minutes late, that the train would not stop at Letchworth or Finsbury Park, both scheduled stops. Two days later, coming home, the train was running 10 minutes late when at Royston passengers were told the train would be non-stop to Cambridge, and passengers for intermediate stations should wait for the next train, 40 minutes later. When Ms Webb asked why this was happening, she was told "the only explanation is the need to keep inside our punctuality targets". The Royston to Cambridge line is little used; therefore there seemed no other possible explanation. Under privatisation, penalties of pounds 180-per-minute are paid to Railtrack for delays, and season-ticket holders are entitled to discounts if services fall below punctuality thresholds. Ms Webb says: "I've been travelling on this line for 11 years and this is the first time this sort of thing has happened."

The Independent on Sunday's `Great British Rail Disaster', by Christian Wolmar, which includes more than 60 items from this column, has just been published 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. (Tel: 01932 855909 ex 235/236).

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