Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 4/08/2003A friend phones up in some distress: she’s left her very expensive jacket on a train going down to the West Country. It’s late, she’s tired and she wants to call Plymouth Station before the train gets there so they can check.

Tuesday 4/08/2003
A friend phones up in some distress: she’s left her very expensive jacket on a train going down to the West Country. It’s late, she’s tired and she wants to call Plymouth Station before the train gets there so they can check. But none of the numbers she has seem to work any more.

I say I’ll see what I can do, and set about phoning around. National Rail enquiries isn’t answering, and Great Western is permanently engaged.

A perfect excuse to use all these new directory service enquiries, starting with the twin running moustaches, 118 118. They give me the National Rail Enquiries number. That’s not what I want, I say. That’s all you’re getting, they say.

Two more directory enquiries do the same, with only BT offering any sort of explanation. “Security”, says the rather exasperated voice. “They withdrew all the station telephone numbers because of security.”

I know there are some terrible people out there prepared to blow things up, but there’s only so much you can do to a railway station over the phone. Shout very loudly, perhaps? It must be witches, putting curses on the national railway infrastructure: “We’re sorry to announce the late arrival of the 19:03 from Paddington: this is due to a plague of newts in the buffet car and the driver being turned into an elderly okapi.” Mind you, it could explain the tendency of solid steel rails to buckle like liquorish whenever the sun comes out.

So if anyone can tell me what the security threat to railway stations is that means they no longer want to talk to their customers, I’d be pleased to hear it. And if it can be adapted to turn spammers into elderly okapis, the rest of the world will be delighted.

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