First Capital Connect and Network Rail bosses set to be scrutinised at St Albans Local Services Scrutiny Committee

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Rail bosses set to be scrutinised at committee meeting Rail bosses set to be scrutinised at committee meeting

The performance of the Thameslink rail service will be scrutinised at a meeting next month, following recent disruptions and major delays.

Senior management from First Capital Connect (FCC) and Network Rail will be questioned by St Albans District Council’s Local Services Scrutiny Committee at a meeting on Thursday, March 6.

Issues will include recent disruption to the service and the extent of communication to passengers about the resulting delays.

Services to and from the district were severely disrupted last December due to storm damage and debris and on January 17 due to overhead line damage at Hendon.

The latest significant disruption took place on Monday, February 17 when there was flooding and consequent damage to signalling equipment at Patcham Tunnel, between Hassocks and Brighton. FCC decided to operate a reduced service as a result.

Councillor Chris White, committee chair, said: "This is just one of a number of recent disruptions to the service. On this occasion, little information was provided to passengers at St Albans station about the reasons behind the disruption.

"The committee will be keen to hear what improvements can be made to help communicate to passengers the reasons behind the delays and any resulting reduced service. This is important as FCC has just been given a six-month contract extension and will need to plan for any future disruption."

Every six months FCC and Network Rail appear before the committee to answer questions about the service.

At the last meeting in September last year, it was agreed that the following issues will also be covered at the meeting on March 6.

• Data on increased passenger numbers and increased capacity for the train service over recent years.

• An explanation on the minimal difference in cost between off-peak single and day return fares.

• An explanation as to why long-distance passengers appear to achieve better value for money on ticket prices compared to people travelling short distances.

• Information on whether Harpenden Station can be staffed after 8pm so assistance can be provided to passengers with disabilities on request.

At the meeting, councillors will also ask for FCC and Network Rail:

• To provide options to reduce the noise created by the public address announcements at St Albans City Station.

• To provide information on what arrangements are in place during lengthy periods of disruption to services to ensure that pupils are prioritised by staff at stations, pupils join taxi queues first and have priority on bus services provided, tannoy announcements provide pupils with guidance on what to do in the event of delays and schools are alerted about delays so they can have greater awareness of commuting children who may not have arrived on time.

• To improve their communication around overnight engineering works to ensure that local residents are given adequate notice and support.

The meeting will take place at the council’s offices at the Civic Centre in St Peter’s Street at 7pm.

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