Letter: Riding the Fort William railway

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The Independent Online
From Mr Peter D. Brown

Sir: Congratulations to Jonathan Glancey on giving the real flavour of the Fort William sleeper "experience" ("A great train robbery", 27 March). This train is not only a vital economic and psychological link between the Western Highlands and the rest of the country, but it is also one of Britain's major, but unsung, tourist assets.

It is also grossly under-exploited, just like the Settle-Carlisle line before it. The Government is trying to condemn the service and silence Tory MPs with subsidy figures which imply that an army of men is working full-time just to maintain this one train. In fact, the withdrawal of the sleeper is unlikely to save the taxpayer a penny. There will be little saving in track costs, as the line itself is to be to retained, and little in rolling stock which will be surplus to requirements and probably scrapped.

If the sleeper were properly marketed and carried seats as well as berths, it could probably break even in a commercial operation (public or private) within a commercially-minded rail system. That means goodwill on both sides, and reasonable track access and coach leasing charges. The Government should now require BR to postpone withdrawal to allow a commercial proposition to be assembled, thus avoiding heavy re-startup costs which would scupper any such scheme.

Yours sincerely,

PETER D. BROWN

London Friends of the

West Highland Line

London, N1

30 March

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