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Railwatch 076 - July 1998

Refreshing change for passengers

An on-train buffet is one of the most important facilities for passengers, so it is good to see that Anglia Railways is planning to have one in its new Turbostar diesel multiple trains which will be leased from Porterbrook and will come into service next year. The buffet bar should be able to offer better fare than a trolley. With the new Turbostars Anglia will be able to offer good quality through trains to non-electrified destinations such as Sheringham.

Anglia has also improved the restaurant car menus for its InterCity London-Norwich trains, offering a mix of dishes, including a vegetarian choice, from around the world.

Unfortunately other train operators have not yet realised that passengers want good refreshments if they are sitting on a train for long periods. They do not accept that passengers often have long journeys involving several connections and mode changes.

Connex South Central is one of the worst offenders. It took over very good buffet cars from BR on its Sussex coast services only to close them and offer a vastly inferior trolley service on small sections of journeys. Last month, 10 of the Mk 1 buffet cars were being sold off by Porterbrook Leasing because Connex does not want them. Connex should be operating an inter-city quality service but passengers who sit in their trains for two hours at a time are treated like inner-suburban commuters. Often people travelling from Gatwick to Portsmouth and Southampton are given no opportunity to eat and drink on the train.

They should aspire to the catering standards set by the Midland Main Line which operates trains over similar distances and makes good use of buffet services as a marketing advantage. Midland Main Line also provides its customers with clean working on-train lavatories which neither Connex nor Virgin seem to be able to manage.

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