Rail disruption

SIR – I am writing to complain at the appalling service offered by First Capital Connect on the Bedford to London route. Despite the 50 per cent reduction in services for the past several weeks, the late cancellations and constant delays, and the horren

SIR - I am writing to complain at the appalling "service" offered by First Capital Connect on the Bedford to London route.

Despite the 50 per cent reduction in services for the past several weeks, the late cancellations and constant delays, and the horrendous overcrowding, I have resisted writing, as I hoped this would be rectified soon.

However, Wednesday evening's farce has left me fuming. I arrived at London Bridge station at 4.50pm, hoping to be able to get on a northbound train to St Albans within 10-15 minutes (I can't rely on a temporary timetable it would seem, as it is so unreliable).

I was extremely frustrated to discover upon arrival at London Bridge that the next northbound service was not until 5.29pm. However, I decided to wait. What a mistake. At 5.29pm the screen showed that the train was delayed, but didn't say for how long. At 5.33pm an announcement was made stating that the service had been cancelled due to a shortage of rolling stock (or was it a driver? I was too furious to hear the lame excuse given). How can this happen - not announcing a cancellation until AFTER the train was due to arrive?! It is absolutely pathetic.

I wish I had a different route into work every day - a choice - to be able to take another train service, but unfortunately FCC has me and all other customers, over a barrel. That is why we have to pay over �3,200 a year for a woeful service and First Capital Connect know that most people have no choice.

FCC says they are in "progressive" and "positive" talks with the union yet we still have to endure miserable journeys day after day.

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And, to my utter disbelief they don't even offer a discount, or refund to customers unless an individual train has been delayed by more than 30 minutes, AND it is down to us poor customers (who make FCC so profitable by the way) to fill in claim form after claim form and receive paltry compensation. And, as most services are delayed by less than 30 minutes, or are cancelled, this policy doesn't even come into effect!

If the principal issue is drivers "working to rule", why doesn't First Capital Connect employ more drivers?

FCC should actually listen to their customers and at the very least offer a proactive refund on season tickets since this debacle started, as well as confirmation of a solution to the appalling service within days, not weeks.


Harpenden Road, St Albans

SIR -I would like to draw to your attention to important changes to First Capital Connect train services in the regular winter timetable change of December 13.

But first, may I please offer a sincere apology for the reduced service that continues on our Bedford to Brighton Thameslink route.

After negotiations with Aslef, we have made a revised pay offer. This was to be formally discussed at the Aslef executive meeting on Tuesday this week at which, we understand, the offer will be recommended for acceptance.

We anticipate our individual drivers will start to return to working rest days and overtime as details of the pay offer are communicated.

A full update will be provided as soon as possible.

Assuming the driver issue is resolved, then from the introduction of the new December timetable we will be adding a new 0618 Bedford to Sutton weekday service calling at Leagrave, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway, Harpenden, St Albans, West Hampstead, St Pancras and all stations to Sutton via Mitcham Junction.

An additional 1844 Elephant & Castle to St Albans service will also be introduced calling at Blackfriars (1848), City Thameslink (1850), Farringdon (1853), St Pancras (1858), then all stations to St Albans (1933).

However, the Brighton to Bedford First Capital Connect service that currently calls at London Bridge at 1642 will have to take a different route through Elephant and Castle and will no longer be able to call at London Bridge.

This rerouting of the London Bridge service is a direct result of a new and improved Southeastern timetable which means there will be less space at London Bridge for First Capital Connect trains.

This change is driven by the Department for Transport (DfT) to best meet overall passenger demand.

The DfT is funding the �5.5bn Thameslink Programme which in the future will open up London Bridge to many more Thameslink route services.

Customers affected by the change at London Bridge can use their ticket on any reasonable London Underground route to King's Cross St Pancras on the Northern Line or to West Hampstead on the Jubilee line, where they can connect with an FCC service. This is provided the route is not shown as 'First Capital Connect' or 'FCC only' or 'Not Underground'.

There are other minor changes to the timetable. This can be checked on-line at www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk/dec09timetable, or in timetables stocked at staffed stations.


Communications Manager

First Capital Connect