Train operator First Capital Connect fined £75K for 'a catalogue of errors'
PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 September 2013
First Capital Connect (FCC) has been fined £75,000 for failing to protect the safety of its passengers who became trapped on a broken down train.
The rail operator, which runs the Thameslink line through St Albans, Harpenden and Radlett, was handed the hefty financial penalty on Monday following a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).
During the evening rush hour on May 26, 2011, an FCC service from Brighton to Bedford carrying 700 passengers lost power and became stranded for around three hours at Dock Junction between St Pancras International and Kentish Town stations in North London.
ORR’s investigation found that FCC had not adequately planned its response to deal with stranded trains or provided those on board with accurate information, working ventilation or toilet facilities.
Passengers were forced to call National Rail Enquiries for updates and throughout the three-hour period were repeatedly informed a rescue train would be arriving in 10 minutes.
Inaccurate information and poor conditions resulted in many passengers opening the doors and leaving the train when it was considered safer for them to stay on board.
FCC pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to a charge under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was also ordered to pay £27,718 in costs.
ORR’s director of safety Ian Prosser said passengers were treated with a “distinct lack of care” and the company committed a “catalogue of errors”.
He went on: “Since the incident, FCC has taken steps to rectify their management of similar situations. ORR is monitoring the company and will not hesitate to take action to ensure passengers are not placed in such a position again.
“Accurate and timely passenger information is essential not only for those planning journeys, but as this incident demonstrates, is critical for the safe running of the railways.”
Responding to Monday’s verdict FCC managing director David Statham said: “The safety of our passengers is our top priority and we deeply regret what happened back in May 2011.
“We didn’t live up to our own high standards in the way we handled this event which is why we took quick and decisive action afterwards.
“We commissioned comprehensive internal and external investigations that led to a range of actions to ensure this unusual combination of events is extremely unlikely to happen again.”