SOUTH West Trains paid for a fleet of taxis to take passengers home - because a train guard refused to hold the train for a couple of minutes.

Among the 12 passengers were two women who were taken by taxi from Ascot station to their Aldershot homes.

According to the cabbie their fare alone cost South West Trains £50, and he said it wasn't the first time he had come to the rescue.

"He estimated that the company had paid out £4,500 in taxi fares in December from Ascot alone," said one of the women, Mrs Maureen Goodes, of Highfield Gardens, Aldershot.

She said the train was standing at the platform at Ascot station as she and her friend raced up the underpass stairs followed by other passengers, only to hear the whistle blow and watch as the train moved slowly off.

"We asked the guard, who was standing in a carriage doorway, if he was Aldershot bound, and he said ‘yes madam'," said Mrs Goodes.

"We all looked on in total disbelief as the train pulled away."

Huge bill

She couldn't understand why South West Trains seemed happy to foot the huge taxi bill rather than hold up the train for two minutes.

As far as she and her friend were concerned, it was the final chapter in a never ending Sunday day trip to Reading in which they travelled on three trains, two buses and the taxi.

"I suppose you could say we had value for money," laughed Mrs Maureen Goodes.

She said no-one at Aldershot railway station told them about the Sunday disruption to services until they after they had bought their tickets.

Because of track maintenance, the train took them only as far as Camberley where a bus was waiting to take them to Ascot.

They were told the rest of the journey would be by train, but instead they found themselves waiting in the cold for another bus at Ascot.To their surprise that bus took them only as far as Bracknell. "When we got there the driver said he didn't know what was going to happen after that," said Mrs Goodes.

They were rescued by station staff who directed them to a Reading-bound train which didn't move off for another 20 minutes.They arrived after two hours, a nightmare trip twice as long as scheduled.

A South West Trains spokeswoman said disruption to services, due to track maintenance, was well publicised through posters at stations and via press releases.

As for the Ascot connection on the homeward journey, she said holding the train back could have caused problems farther down the line.

"In this case the station staff appeared to have done the right thing by calling up taxis," she said.