Credit crunch delays new trains to help overcrowding

PUBLISHED: 13:17 30 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 May 2010

RAIL commuters hoping that new trains due in March would ease overcrowding may have to wait a bit longer for a more comfortable journey. The expected new units have been hit by the economic downturn. First Capital Connect (FCC), the train operator which o

RAIL commuters hoping that new trains due in March would ease overcrowding may have to wait a bit longer for a more comfortable journey. The expected new units have been hit by the economic downturn.

First Capital Connect (FCC), the train operator which operates on the Thameslink route, was hoping to introduce 23 new four-carriage units across its service to ease congestion.

But manufacturer Bombardier has revealed it can supply only 15 of the trains by March because suppliers are facing financial difficulties.

Neil Harvey of Bombardier said: "One of the firms fits the train interiors and the other fits wire looms. Unfortunately one of them had to go into administration while the other is on the verge. However, we are confident that we can supply 15 of the trains on time with the others following on not far behind."

Up to 130,000 travellers a day use the Bedford to Brighton Thameslink line which has had a long history of overcrowded rush-hour trains. As many as half of peak-time passengers claim to be unable to get a seat. There has been a spate of recent cases of travellers who have paid about £3,000 for season tickets being fined for sitting in almost-empty first-class areas because the standard carriages are so packed.

The new units were supposed to enable 16 peak-time services to operate eight-car carriages instead of the present four making it possible for more passengers to get a seat.

They were also intended to ensure the service could cope with a timetable that is being introduced as part of a £5.5 billion upgrade. Blackfriars station is being rebuilt as part of the renovation, which means some platforms are being taken out of action and extra trains are needed.

A spokesperson for FCC said: "We don't foresee the delay having any negative impacts on the current service or timetable and passengers will still experience the benefit of the extra carriages albeit a short while later."

The Department for Transport has been in talks with FCC to discuss contingency plans in case the stock fails to arrive.

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