BRITISH RAIL grows ever more determined to deter potential customers. The latest Guide to InterCity Services has pre-punched Filofax holes. These perforations imbue rail travel with fresh unpredictability, because they have been punched through the middle of the schedules.

Leeds disappears into a black hole, while the two largest towns in northeast Scotland become -dee and -deen. Other gaps give the timetable a metaphysical quality. A train exists briefly at 8.18am at Oxford, for example, but its point of origin and destination are missing.

Even in the real world of British Rail, the space-time continuum gets a bit warped: last Saturday at Lancaster station, InterCity had late-running trains which were running late. My service to London was one of the lucky ones, just 15 minutes late. We limped along to Milton Keynes, where the train was suddenly seized by a fit of punctuality - presumably something to do with a burst of yogic flying around Hemel Hempstead. By the time we got to Euston the late-running train was 20 minutes early.