Letter: Orwellian incident on the 8.33

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The Independent Online
Sir: The 8.33 service from Victoria to Dover Priory was held up at Rochester for a quarter of an hour this morning (30 April). It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining. Not a hint of the wrong sort of snow, of heavier than usual rain, of craftily falling leaves, of hooligan elements aboard the train, of points failure, of malfunctioning carriage couplings, of industrial action, of fatalities on the line

No, this morning the dying remnants of British Rail battled heroically against a new and even more insidious enemy: the Wrong Sort of Passenger. The delay, we were loudly and proudly informed by our guard, was due to the sudden discovery on board our train of an "illegal immigrant" who held neither valid ticket nor passport, and whom the police, once they arrived on the scene, would shortly be detaining.

The guard, with his Orwellian telescreen-tones, would clearly have felt most at home on the Deutsche Reichsbahn in the late 1930s, and evidently expected all respectable passengers to applaud his patriotic intervention. But instead there were exclamations of shock, of disbelief, of anger too. Anger that even a national institution as charmingly inept and slapdash as British Rail had finally been poisoned by the culture of frightening intolerance and creeping authoritarianism that our government promotes daily.

Mr Howard's long-lost Romanian relatives would be well advised to hitchhike in future, should they ever have the misfortune to find themselves visitors in Britain. And whoever now actually runs the railways in this country should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for allowing their crisis-ridden service to become an instrument of what is beginning to resemble a police state.

Lawrence Kuglin

Sittingbourne, Kent

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