Sometimes I despair at the arrogance and the crass ineptitude of officialdom in this country of ours.

The UK is the only large European nation to close down its rail system from late on Christmas Eve to the morning of December 27. Sadly, we have not had Christmas passenger trains for 40 years. They were stopped because of falling demand. But that was 1962. This is 2002.

Passenger numbers have soared in recent years. With thousands of relatives visiting their families, the first day of the sales in full flush and sports fans on the move all over the country, especially on Boxing Day, there is a huge demand for holiday trains.

So how does a pompous ass by the name of George Muir, director-general of some self-serving outfit called the Association of Train Operating Companies, have the effrontery to tell us: "The economics of railways are difficult enough as it is without more loss-making services. As long as people know there are no trains, they can plan their journeys around it."

The brass-necked impertinence of the man is astonishing. The whole concept of running a public service is clearly something alien to him and so many others like him in Britain in charge of running operations allegedly for the benefit of the public.

The call for renationalisation and serious funding on a European level is becoming irresistible.

The chaotic state of the rail system in Britain is a serious problem. While train operating companies may be reluctant to provide decent public services, there is a level of danger on the tracks that is truly frightening.

A leaked report, kept secret from the public for obvious reasons, revealed a horrifying state of affairs. While there were other problems, most of the deterioration on the lines was caused by the effect of worn train wheels on badly-laid track.

But its conclusion, that because of a systematic failure in the maintenance of the railways, track is still liable to crack under the weight of heavy trains, prompted a very worried deputy chief inspector of the railways to send a memo to his boss. "The report," he wrote, "is a damning indictment of railway maintenance procedures, practices and performance and the management of it."

Of course, the companies responsible for maintaining the railways now claim many of the problems have been overcome by a new type of contract with Railtrack. Well, they would say that wouldn't they.

My response is every time I go to Brighton station, I worry about the train having an accident. Every time the train rattles and sways over uneven stretches of track, I grip the armrests with nervousness. And I watch others behaving similarly. It is unacceptable to travel in such a fashion.

The next time Tony Blair happens to be passing through the country, on his way to try to solve other people's problems elsewhere, someone might just mention it to him.