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Flexible scheduling

Virgin Trains has hit on an innovative way to save time on its Cross Country route. If a train is running late - no problem - it simply bypasses Leeds.

Bit of a problem if you want to get off at Leeds, but never mind, everyone else is happy. So we ask: have you experience of this kind of innovation?

Many years ago I was flying Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa to London via Rome and Frankfurt. The plane was getting later and later all along the route, but we wondered why there was an extra delay at Frankfurt. A number of passengers got on, and they were very surprised when the captain announced shortly after take-off that the next stop was London when their destination was East Africa. The plane was so late that it had picked up passengers for the return trip and was thus able to save time (and money) by not having to land at Frankfurt again!

Did Virgin get its idea from this airline operation? If so they need to make sure that passengers' onward arrangements are not disrupted.

John Rhodes, 61, highways engineer, Bristol I was told, although I haven't experienced it, that one UK train operator cannot keep to its timetable either. Its solution is simple: alter it to give itself more time.

Ruth Goudie, 43, traffic engineer, Canterbury I have experienced a similar sort of logic on German railways as well. A delayed train in which I was travelling was stopped a couple of stations short of its destination and the passengers were ordered to disembark, freeing it up to start its somewhat shortened return journey punctually and avoiding 'knock-on' delays within the system! That the passengers had a half-hour wait for the next service, or had to seek alternative methods of transport, was apparently not of importance.

Why not take all this a step further? By simply abandoning a fixed timetable, there would be an unlimited amount of time available to complete the journey.

Mike Paul, 47, senior engineer, Stuttgart Sorry, I rarely use the train. Too slow, too unreliable, too expensive and too inconvenient. For the majority of journeys undertaken by consultants, public transport is simply not a commercial option.

How is one supposed to carry a ladder, spirit level, torch, level, staff and legs on the bus/train. OK, in the North West of England you may hit the odd traffic jam occasionally, but this is nothing compared to the problems with public transport. I dislike polluting the atmosphere, but there is no other choice for me.

Phil Howden, 40, partner, Lancaster

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