Railway hits Euro 96 buffers

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The Independent Online
A railway company yesterday scored a spectacular own goal when it let slip that football supporters would not be encouraged to travel to this summer's European Championship finals on its trains because it has not got enough rolling stock to carry them.

Regional Railways North East said its decision had been taken "purely for capacity reasons" and there was no question of the company discriminating against football fans.

"June is a very busy month for us and we thought it only fair to regular travellers and to fans not to promote train travel to the games," a North East spokesman said.

The company still expects to carry spectators to matches at Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, but a leaked letter written by a North East manager to a rival company, North West Regional Railways, showed that North East would not actively promote rail travel for the matches.

Scarborough Council, which has spent pounds 25,000 on hotel and food for the Bulgarian team and officials in order to attract around 2,000 of their fans to stay at the resort, has calling a special meeting to discuss the letter. The Bulgarians and other fans in Scarborough have to travel to York for connections to Leeds and Newcastle.

Don Robinson, a Scarborough businessman, said: "Rail bosses are planning an icy welcome for visitors to Euro 96, the biggest sporting event in Britain for 30 years. I'm staggered by their attitude."

The Shadow Minister for Sport and Tourism, Tom Pendry, said he found the decision "incredible and a terrible advertisement for Britain", while Labour transport spokesman Brian Wilson said the decision was "absurd and offensive".