Train companies let down their regular customers over Christmas this year, failing to provide any services on Christmas Day and only a handful on Boxing Day.

And the Department for Transport which now runs Britain’s railways failed to give a lead in calling for the trains to run.

Officials missed an opportunity to win over to rail the many car drivers who are increasingly reluctant to venture out on crowded roads in dangerous, wintry conditions.

The only National Rail train service running on Boxing Day was a truncated Thameslink service between London and Luton.

In previous years, Thameslink served Gatwick Airport and Bedford.

In London the Docklands Light Railway ran a good service but had to make repeated announcements warning passengers that they should not expect to find National Rail services running.

On Boxing Day the the AA warned that motorists faced huge traffic problems because of the high number of people taking to their cars to visit family and friends over the Christmas period.

Many people had no choice other than to take to the roads because of the 58-hour shutdown on the rail network.

Yet in 2000, Government transport supremo John Prescott promised to cut congestion and to increase rail, bus and cycle use.

Sadly his fellow ministers, including the Prime Minister, have made it impossible for that pledge to be delivered.

Car use has risen by 7% and Mr Prescott has been forced to admit there are now around 2million more cars on the road.

To make matters worse, fares throughout the rail network increase from 1 January 2006, regulated fares by 3.9% and unregulated fares by an average of 4.5%.