Posts Tagged ‘first capital connect’

You’re on a train, in a carriage with a couple of dozen other members of the public. Unless the carriage has dividers to create a first class section, then you’re all enjoying the class of travel. Despite the fact you may have all paid different amounts for your ticket, or that some may hold a seasonal pass, you’ll be treated the same by the conductor and staff. And if the train is delayed, then you’re all delayed.

Common sense, of the bleeding obvious variety. So what happens if the train is delayed and you then apply for compensation? Would you expect some sort of consistency in how claims are met, or would it depend on your age, sex, address or some other random criteria nobody told you about?

Welcome to the world of First Capital Connect. Over to avid Bitterwallet reader Olly, who picks up the story:

A few weeks back myself and my girlfriend were in London celebrating a friend’s departure for sunnier climes (well, Bristol) on Saturday night. We got the train back to St Albans where we live and en route ended up getting stuck just inside a tunnel and then evacuated off a train. What should have been a 40 minute journey ended up taking 4 hours.

We’re both Annual Season Ticket holders so we both applied for a refund. However, I did mine a couple of days later, and it appears that First Capital Connect had a change of heart in between doing my girlfriend’s compensation and mine. She was awarded £25, I got nothing other than the obligatory refund.

In fact, First Capital Connect goes to great lengths to explain the reasons for the delay to Olly’s girlfriend, before providing a refund and a £25 bonus:

Picture 25 The great First Capital Connect compensation lottery

As for Olly, they couldn’t be bothered to explain the cause of the delay, or offer the bonus (the discrepancy in the minimum payout is because Olly doesn’t have a travelcard, whereas his girlfriend does):

Picture 44 The great First Capital Connect compensation lottery

“I’ve asked First Capital Connect why the discrepancy – we were both, after all, stuck on the same train for the same amount of time,” says Olly. “As yet, ten days later, I’ve not had a response.”

Bitterwallet reader Olly is a regular passenger with First Capital Connect (FCC) and he’s mad as hell. He’s one of the thousands of London commuters caught up in the continued disruptions caused by FCC drivers deciding to work-to-rule after recent pay negotiations collapsed. That means drivers aren’t working overtime or on rest days, although you’d assume FCC could still run a reasonably satisfactory timetable – it is a business after all, and you don’t run a business based on high numbers of staff working overtime, all the time. And yet, as Olly explains:

“The whole timetable has gone tits up. On Thursday, for example, when there are meant to be eight trains between 8-9am into London from my station (Elstree) there were just three. Thameslink line being one of the most overcrowded at the best of times meant that, not surprisingly, eight trains loads of people into three trains didn’t go.

header business left FCC train disruptions continue, new drivers due... in 2010

“The FCC is handing out emergency timetables – it’s like the Blitz spirit, except it’s 2009. This new timetable means that because I, like a large section of population finish work at 5.30pm (say closer to 6pm in reality), I have one train between 6-7pm to get home. Usually in that hour there is at least five.”

So what has FCC to say on the matter?

“This situation started when pay talks began with our drivers. As pay talks have continued, we have been experiencing high levels of cancellations particularly on the Thameslink route. We are working to provide the best possible timetable each day and limit the disruption caused.”

FCC has explained that despite employing enough drivers, some of these drivers are on long-term sick and others are restricted as to what they can do – that’s why when drivers decide to work-to-rule the entire network falls over.  It’s like a perfect storm, not of wind, rain and big waves, but of shortages according to the train company – except FCC have been operating the franchise for over three years. As Olly points out: “If you have that high a percentage of drivers who are unable to drive then you probably need some more drivers.”

There is some light at the end of the tunnel (a little train humour, right there); FCC has recruited new drivers to help ease the disruption – although they won’t finish training until Spring next year – and FCC has agreed to an unspecified amount of compensation, “to be paid out… based on trains which should have arrived under the old timetable”. Right now, that’s pretty much all of them.