Hunger trains

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Directly Operated Railways, through its subsidiary East Coast, has shown that railways can still be run successfully by the public sector in this country. However, the article by Martin Hannan, “Bridge to success for revamped line” (28 September), presented an unduly rosy picture in failing to mention some of the still unresolved shortcomings.

The rail watchdog, Passenger Focus, has recently been rightly concerned that East Coast has had nearly three times more complaints than any other train operating company.

Recent minutes record that: “While East Coast’s managing director had accepted on numerous occasions that the situation was unacceptable, it had not improved on a permanent basis.”

East Coast’s former managing director wanted to stop running through-trains north of Edinburgh and I do not detect that this mindset has changed.

The current timetable for the prestige Highland Chieftain service from King’s Cross advertises the all-day menu as being available until the Pitlochry stop at 18:30.

In fact, an afternoon tea menu is introduced from Edinburgh northwards on departure at 16:32 even though the timetable also states that afternoon tea is only available on “selected services between 14:00 and 16:00”.

Passenger requests to restore a satisfying hot food service to that train in the early evening are being ignored and it is ironic that the breakfast chef works back north on that service but is only allowed to serve drinks and sandwiches.

The focus on Newcastle and Edinburgh has certainly brought results and the “clever marketing campaigns” have promoted a very positive image of what is basically a good product.

The number of passenger complaints that have to go to appeal show there is much more work for the company to do to listen to its passengers and “get it right”.

R J Ardern

Inverness