First Capital Connect boss says: 'Many feel we are totally incompetent'

PUBLISHED: 18:27 22 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:50 06 May 2010

A FIRST Capital Connect (FCC) manager has conceded that the service has been appalling in recent weeks but has promised to put a major recovery plan in place. Integration and partnership manager Larry Heyman said customers were right to be angry when he m

A FIRST Capital Connect (FCC) manager has conceded that the service has been appalling in recent weeks but has promised to put a major recovery plan in place.

Integration and partnership manager Larry Heyman said customers were right to be angry when he met with councillors on the St Albans public services overview and scrutiny committee last week.

He even said he travelled on the line into work and the service has left him feeling "embarrassed".

He said: "I think many of our customers hate us, many want us to lose our franchise, many of them feel we are totally incompetent and we are taking that completely on board. We have a major recovery plan which is being put in place. The first elements of that will come out in the next few weeks or so."

Mr Heyman said there were various issues under review but that top of the list was communication.

There have been countless complaints from passengers about a lack of information from staff and incorrect details being displayed on the live departure board.

He continued: "The first part of getting communication right is people within the business knowing what's going on and having the right message to give to customers.

"The majority of our staff have worked heroically in difficult circumstances - it's quite understandable that passengers are extremely upset and angry about services and its human nature to deliver that on the first person you can find. But it's hurt them and its hurt our customers."

Mr Heyman explained that FCC drivers had worked extremely hard to deliver last year's improved timetable and had encountered problems with training on the new trains, which was why they felt the pay freeze which triggered the recent dispute was such a "slap in the face."

But he said that the drivers already earned a basic salary of around £30,000 and most of them took home more than £50,000 with overtime pay, with a minority earning £60,000 a year.

Mr Heyman said all problems and repairs to trains damaged by the sub-zero temperatures should be ironed out by February 3. But until then he warned that there would be a number of services with four carriages instead of eight, as well as cancellations.

He added: "But in comparison to what passengers have had to put up with the last few weeks and last couple of weeks when the snow hit, it will be far, far better."

A revised compensation package for commuters which will reflect the "appalling" services experienced has also been promised.

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