Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 18:56 GMT 19:56 UK
Kosovo aid train 'held to ransom'
Hundreds of thousands of people were forced out of Kosovo
Macedonia is reportedly demanding $8,000 to release a British aid train bound for Kosovo after stopping it just 80km (50 miles) from its destination.
One of the organisers, Tony Morris, said staff on the train had received threats from local railway workers.
They were running out of supplies and were exhausted by their ordeal.
Officials from the Kosovo peacekeeping force, K-For, and the British embassy in Macedonia are trying to help sort out the problem.
The train was due to arrive in Pristina on Saturday after completing a 4,500km (2,800 mile) trip from Britain.
It was already a day behind after an eight-hour delay on Friday at the border between Bulgaria and Greece because a local driver could not be found.
Train for Life spokesman Andy Milne said: "There are some severe problems. The [Macedonian] railway company is demanding $8,000 for them to proceed.
"There are 15 British nationals on board and we are rather concerned for their welfare. Apparently there have been death threats from Serbs working on the Macedonian railways.''
The Train for Life is loaded with clothes, food, construction equipment, medicine and artificial limbs.
The scheme was organised by a former British Rail worker, Neil Howard, who was appalled at the sight of Kosovan refugees being forced on to trains at gunpoint during the conflict with Serbia.
"He was devastated to see trains being used for such inhumane purposes and was keen to do something to reverse the trend," said Mr Milne.
Building for the future
The three British engines that have hauled the train across Europe are to be detached and put to work on Kosovo's ailing railways.
They will be used to transport construction material across the province, helping UN troops who are attempting to create one winter-proof room per household in Kosovo.
Four British drivers who have taken the train across Europe will stay in Pristina for two days to instruct local train crews how to operate the engines.