Travel: Off the rails

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The Independent Travel
AVOIDING a long drive by taking your car on French Motorail may save wear and tear on your nerves, but might not be so kind to your car.

People who are particularly fond of their vehicles might be unnerved to see them being driven on and off the trains by Motorail staff. When Paul Jenkins of Exmouth had his car unloaded at Boulogne after coming up from Biarritz, he saw that the exhaust system was torn from its mountings.

'The Motorail courier checked on the possibilities of replacement and directed us to the Midas Exhaust Centre where we spent more than three hours waiting for a replacement part. It was pointed out by Motorail staff that we would have to bear the cost which came to over pounds 170,' writes Mr Jenkins.

Mr Jenkins describes French Railways' attitude as 'less than chivalrous': 'We were left high and dry to fend for ourselves. My first experience of SNCF Motorail was not one which I could recommend to anyone.'

French Railways did, however, agree to pay compensation. 'I was originally told that it would take a week to sort out. It took nearly three - and it was only dealt with as a matter of urgency after I lost my patience and sent a fax saying that I would be getting a County Court judgment. When I rang to find out what was going on, I was told that the payment wasn't in 'today's batch' which set me thinking - how many such payments actually went out in a week?'

On a recent Motorail journey in France, an Independent journalist saw two cars suffer punctures while being driven off the train, which suggests a high incidence of problems. However, French Railways in London says exhaust damage and punctures do not occur frequently.