'The whole day has been completely wrecked' - anger at First Capital Connect flood delays

'The whole day has been completely wrecked' - anger at FCC delays

'The whole day has been completely wrecked' - anger at FCC delays

First published in News
Last updated
St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

Train bosses First Capital Connect (FCC) have been criticised for ‘treating St Albans passengers like dirt’ after reduced services due to flooding have caused major delays and disruptions throughout the day.

Flooding and signalling damage to equipment at Patcham Tunnel in the South Downs between Preston Park and Hassocks in East Sussex on the Thameslink service completely closed the line, and the majority of Brighton based drivers, who would normally drive trains to and from the city, have been unavailable.

This also comes on the same day that FCC was named the third worst train operator for customer satisfaction levels. They scored 41 per cent, with 40 per cent being the worst in the Which? magazine survey of more than 7,000 regular travellers.

Liberal Democrat party leader Councillor Chris White said: "Yet again FCC have treated St Albans passengers like dirt.

"I went into the station and saw a completely vague notice about the services but no explanation as to why. I know First Capital Connect far too well - it was a complete lack of information. "It is difficult enough in the morning rush hour with 12 trains running, let alone only two running.

"It is insufficient. Other railway lines had advertised delays and services on local and national news, but First Capital Connect could not stir their lazy stomachs and inform people."

Councillor White was forced to drive to Rickmansworth station, where he caught the Metropolitan line to London Bridge and was half an hour late for work.

He added: "They have no contingency plan. When it goes wrong, it goes wrong.

"They would have known about the floods earlier on and with a bit of organisation and a bit of foresight planning they could have organised travel for drivers from Brighton to Blackfriars. It is not just the morning - the whole day has been completely wrecked.

"I had my own contingency plan, but for new residents living in St Albans who may not know the area or haven’t driven around yet, they rely on soley on FCC services."

Passengers have travelled on FCC reduced services during the day including:

- Two trains per hour northbound from Hassocks towards Bedford

- Two trains per hour southbound from Bedford towards Hassocks

- Two trains per hour from Blackfriars towards Sutton and Sutton towards Blackfriars

- Two trains per hour from Bedford to Blackfriars

- Two trains per hour from Blackfriars towards Sutton via Mitcham Junction and Sutton towards Blackfriars via Wimbledon

Passengers have been advised to seek alternative routes where possible and tickets are being accepted on FCC's Great Northern route services, on London Underground services and on services run by other train operators on all reasonable routes.

Car park season tickets covering FCC stations on the Thameslink route are also valid at FCC operated car parks on the Great Northern route.

St Albans councillor Sandy Walkington said: "Of course we understand that flooding has affected the southernmost part of the Thameslink route.

"But the question all weary St Albans commuters will ask when they went to a station, which had to be shut because of the congestion and no emergency buses till 9.15am, is whether this could have been anticipated and whether Brighton-based rolling stock should have been moved north by FCC to maintain the bulk of the service, with Brighton-based drivers if necessary being taxied or bussed to their trains.

"Why does there always seem a lack of initiative and anticipation from First Capital Connect? It looks like going the extra mile over the weekend could have paid huge dividends and not let down so many Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire commuters."

Chris Penn, spokesperson for FCC, said he was disappointed.

He said: "The far larger National Passenger Survey showed overall satisfaction scores of 79 per cent, but we listen to all feedback and are taking steps to deliver what passengers want.

"Since this survey was carried out we have frozen our 25 per cent plus weekend and bank holiday discounted tickets and launched a further 10 per cent off online sales in January to give passengers better value for money.

"We’ve unveiled a new train that will address overcrowding on our routes and completed a deep clean of the carriages we have now, with a £350,000 investment in extra staff and equipment.

"We have also worked hard to improve the reliability of our services with specific teams focused on time-keeping. However, their efforts have been derailed by repeated issues with the tracks, signalling and power equipment that, put simply, we do not maintain."

Comments (4)

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6:10am Tue 18 Feb 14

gertcha says...

I do have some sympathy here with FCC, you can't just move a whole depot North as is suggested in this article, where do you put all them trains?

However their key contingency plan should be to get people north of St Pancras into London so when they have days like this they need to abandon the through service and concentrate on running Bedford - St Pancras and maybe Luton - Kentish Town and then people have the additional resouces of the LUL and people have Southern services to run to Brighton / Gatwick
However I think they are always under pressure to serve the two airports
I do have some sympathy here with FCC, you can't just move a whole depot North as is suggested in this article, where do you put all them trains? However their key contingency plan should be to get people north of St Pancras into London so when they have days like this they need to abandon the through service and concentrate on running Bedford - St Pancras and maybe Luton - Kentish Town and then people have the additional resouces of the LUL and people have Southern services to run to Brighton / Gatwick However I think they are always under pressure to serve the two airports gertcha
  • Score: 3

8:14am Tue 18 Feb 14

Bobbio says...

People don't have to commute. Commuting is a major cause of greenhouse gas emission and is totally unnecessary. Businesses should be forbidden from establishing themselves in areas where there is insufficient local labour supply. Workers can chose to either live near where they work or to work near where they live. In such cases time and money spent on commuting would be alleviated, there would be fewer train services and fewer motoring commuters and the environment would be much better.
People don't have to commute. Commuting is a major cause of greenhouse gas emission and is totally unnecessary. Businesses should be forbidden from establishing themselves in areas where there is insufficient local labour supply. Workers can chose to either live near where they work or to work near where they live. In such cases time and money spent on commuting would be alleviated, there would be fewer train services and fewer motoring commuters and the environment would be much better. Bobbio
  • Score: -6

9:11am Tue 18 Feb 14

Bobstan says...

Bobbio, are you Ebenezer Howard in disguise? You have encapsulated the original Garden City concept; the home/work theme was almost more important in his eyes than the Garden aspect.

Well said, gertcha. I think Mr White's frustration and anger has got the better of his judgement.
Bobbio, are you Ebenezer Howard in disguise? You have encapsulated the original Garden City concept; the home/work theme was almost more important in his eyes than the Garden aspect. Well said, gertcha. I think Mr White's frustration and anger has got the better of his judgement. Bobstan
  • Score: 0

2:17pm Tue 18 Feb 14

sac_commuter says...

Whilst I agree some disruption was to be expected, FCC will love the fact anyone believes their line of excuses, imagining a 'whole depot of trains' stuck the otherside of floods. Simply not the case. The main depot (for trains and drivers) is Bedford and this is an FCC Depot. North of London, there is also Cricklewood for stabling trains. South of London, Brighton is a driver depot with a smaller one centrally on the route at Blackfriars. FCC stable some trains overnight at the Southern Trains depot between Brighton and Preston Park that are required for the morning service but may also stable others at Selhurst (south of London but much north of the flooding).
FCC did not run a service to Brighton on Sunday 16th and the service was fine with 4 fast trains an hour plus other stopping services running (this was significantly more trains than they ran on Monday 17th).
Their biggest problem clearly was the Brighton drivers and proper contingency planning and capable management to move drivers via other routes should have minimised the effect of this (The line out of Brighton via Lewes was in operation and road transport for drivers could be organised).
Unfortunately, we experienced the all too familiar FCC shambles added to by poor, inaccurate and absent information - something they claim to have been investing in and working hard to improve - yesterday was a clear failure of this (I have photos as evidence which the Council Scrutiny Committee will shortly receive).
Whilst I agree some disruption was to be expected, FCC will love the fact anyone believes their line of excuses, imagining a 'whole depot of trains' stuck the otherside of floods. Simply not the case. The main depot (for trains and drivers) is Bedford and this is an FCC Depot. North of London, there is also Cricklewood for stabling trains. South of London, Brighton is a driver depot with a smaller one centrally on the route at Blackfriars. FCC stable some trains overnight at the Southern Trains depot between Brighton and Preston Park that are required for the morning service but may also stable others at Selhurst (south of London but much north of the flooding). FCC did not run a service to Brighton on Sunday 16th and the service was fine with 4 fast trains an hour plus other stopping services running (this was significantly more trains than they ran on Monday 17th). Their biggest problem clearly was the Brighton drivers and proper contingency planning and capable management to move drivers via other routes should have minimised the effect of this (The line out of Brighton via Lewes was in operation and road transport for drivers could be organised). Unfortunately, we experienced the all too familiar FCC shambles added to by poor, inaccurate and absent information - something they claim to have been investing in and working hard to improve - yesterday was a clear failure of this (I have photos as evidence which the Council Scrutiny Committee will shortly receive). sac_commuter
  • Score: 3

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