MILES KINGTON: RULES AND REGULATIONS ; `Proceeding through Water, a Train Must Have a Red Navigation Light to Port and a Green One to Starboard. If Steam, It Must Give Way to Sail'
Kington, Miles, The Independent (London, England)
Not many people realise that the law applying to railways and railway activities is often quite different from the other laws of the land. Did you realise, for example, that it is illegal to buy anything from a train buffet and then offer it for resale to other passengers? Or that it is illegal to use any part of a sleeper train as a brothel? Or that you can do business on a train but may not dictate letters to a secretary, for fear of disturbing other passengers?
The leading expert in this field is the railway lawyer Ivan Westonbirt, who is here today to answer all your legal posers about life on trains.
When you leave a newspaper on your seat to indicate that it is taken while you go to the loo or get a cup of tea, does that have any legal validity?
Ivan Westonbirt writes: No. But when you get to know railway law better, you will find that nothing has any legal validity at all.
You seem to assume, for instance, that sitting in a seat gives you a right to that seat. Not at all. If someone came along and bodily lifted you out of your seat, and sat in it instead of you, they would have as much right to it as you.
When I was a kid, my friends and I used to leave coins on the line before train went by so that the engine wheels would squash and flatten them. I found some of these hidden in a drawer the other day, and I now wish I hadn't let this happen, as they might be quite valuable antique coins by now. Can I sue the railway company for squashing my coinage?
Ivan Westonbirt writes: No.
Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Ivan Westonbirt writes: Certainly. If you examine the small print of any railway company, you will find that any eventuality that could ever happen on a railway line has been anticipated by hawk- eyed and greedy lawyers many years ago, absolving the company from all responsibility for everything. …