` DISGRACEFUL' Fans fuming at lack of match trains.
CONTROVERSIAL travel arrangements for the Six Nations rugby clash between Wales and England have been branded ``disgraceful'' by English rugby fans.
Rail chiefs are refusing to run trains east of Newport after the Millennium Stadium match on February 22 because of the late kick-off - 5.30pm.
And the move has left many English supporters fuming.
Tim Lawler, managing director of London-based club Saracens, said: ``If you've got guaranteed customers for your service, why not capitalise on it?
``Cardiff is a major European city and a very important sports venue, but this could frustrate its reputat i on .''
Fans travelling to London and the South Coast will be among the worst-hit by the decision by Wales and Borders Trains to run a reduced service on match day.
And those hoping to book accommodation in the city could be disappointed - a straw poll by the Echo has revealed many of Cardiff's top hotels are nearly fully booked.
Carl Wilmore, secretary of Southampton RFC, said: ``It is going to be a big inconvenience for our supporters.''
And Ian Geary, director of rugby at Manchester RFC, added: ``It's disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful.''
Such sentiments have also been echoed closer to home.
Rugby commentator and former Wales international Jonathan Davies said: ``I am disappointed.
``What happens if cup matches go into overtime in future, or Cardiff City get into the Premiership?''
But Chris Gibb, managing director of Wales and Borders Trains, reiterated the decision was influenced by the Welsh Rugby Union's move to delay kick-off for two hours to allow for maximum media coverage.
He said: ``Maintaining a positive image of Wales, and of Cardiff as its capital, is extremely important and we have demonstrated our `can-do' attitude time and time again with events in the stadium.
``However, the safety of our customers will always come first and an independent risk assessment has shown that 5.30pm kick-offs stretch the operation at Cardiff Central beyond a safe limit, which is the reason this tough decision has been taken.'' But John Feehan, acting chief executive of the Six Nations Committee, said other European cities take late kick-offs in their stride.
``We are stunned by the decision,'' he said. ``I can't think of any European city where they would have a problem with this.
``Cardiff is supposed to be Europe's youngest capital city, so to have a third-rate train service or no train service at all is unacceptable.''
TRAVEL CHAOS England rugby fans could have problems getting home after the game.
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|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Jan 13, 2003|
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