Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rail Users Short-Changed Again

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rail Users Short-Changed Again

Article excerpt

TODAY'S new figures on complaints by rail passengers underline once again the Government's lamentable lack of progress in improving rail services. The Rail Passengers' Council reports that the number of complaints made to it jumped by a quarter last year, to more than 9,000 - and that this number is just the tip of the iceberg. The total number of complaints made to rail companies is around a million a year. Most rail users are wearily familiar with late services and scruffy trains, while increases in the number of complaints about how rail companies themselves handle those concerns - including Thameslink and Silverlink in London - will come as no surprise either. But the new figures also reveal a particular problem with the purchase of advance tickets, especially at Christmas and Easter. The RPC criticises rail companies for heavily advertising a few low-fare seats but keeping fares unfairly high on peak services. Failure of computer systems also caused problems. The RPC makes sensible recommendations, such as a national railcard and more transparent pricing. What seems clear, however, as other regularly reported problems with rail services, is that they will not improve until serious political pressure is brought to bear on the train operating companies. That requires political will on the part of the ministers concerned - yet Alistair Darling is still quietly bumbling along as Transport Secretary after more than three years in the job. After so long, rail users are entitled to ask - does the Government care any longer about them at all?

Mental illness neglected

THE KILLING of Denis Finnegan, a London banker, as he cycled through Richmond Park last September was carried out by a schizophrenic who had only recently walked out of a secure ward at Springfield Hospital in Tooting. The case revealed disturbing inadequacies on the part of the hospital in their care of John Barrett, the killer. …

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