First Capital Connect collectors slammed for 'heavy-handed' approach

PUBLISHED: 06:40 12 April 2011

Train

Train

Archant

A COMMUTER has raised concerns about the "heavy handed" approach of ticket inspectors on First Capital Connect (FCC) trains.

Like numerous other passengers on a recent 9.04am service from St Albans to Brighton, Samantha Robinson entered the first-class carriage after she struggled to get onto the overcrowded train.

But as soon as the train started moving, two ticket inspectors appeared and issued £20 fines to the many commuters packed into the first-class carriage, with one businesswoman even receiving a caution because she did not have the means to pay there and then.

Ms Robinson said: “As soon as the train pulled out of the station, the inspectors pounced. Nobody in the carriage had, of course, a first class ticket. Rather, the majority were annual season ticket holders who had paid some £3,000 for the privilege of travelling under these overcrowded conditions on a daily basis.

“One such season ticket holder – a perfectly polite and smartly-dressed business woman – stated that she did not have the means to pay the fine and could FCC please send the bill to her home address, and she even provided a document with her address on it.

“She was then cautioned by the inspector – yes, cautioned as if she was some petty criminal, rather than someone who pays thousands each year to travel in these appalling conditions.

“FCC is sending inspectors round on a busy route like this in the knowledge that the majority of travellers on these services are regular commuters and have already paid for a ticket. It is using appalling tactics to raise further revenue, and for what? It’s certainly not for extra seats.”

Ms Robinson added: “This definitely isn’t the first time that I’ve seen the inspectors in action, although I’ve never seen them caution anyone before. I do find it unbelievable that they ‘stalk’ the packed commuter trains when people barely have standing room anyway.”

A spokesperson for FCC said: “First-class seating areas are clearly signposted on trains and the National Rail conditions of carriage state that standard tickets are not valid in first-class accommodation, therefore anyone travelling without the appropriate ticket is at risk of incurring a penalty fare. We think it is also fair to explain we do receive complaints from first-class ticket holders when those who haven’t paid a supplement travel in the first-class seating area.”

n New train drivers for FCC were welcomed onto the roster with a graduation ceremony at King’s Cross station last month.

The new recruits are the first batch of 60 new drivers who are going through the largest driver training programme undertaken by the train company following ongoing staff shortage problems. The remainder will qualify by the end of the year, increasing the total complement of FCC drivers to over 6,000.

Neal Lawson, FCC managing director, said: “This is the biggest recruitment for new drivers in FCC’s history. More drivers mean fewer rostering problems and fewer delays and cancellations. This investment goes to the heart of improving our service. By increasing the number of drivers, we will reduce the traditional reliance on rest day working which has affected services in recent years. I hope that passengers will see an immediate, sustainable benefit.”

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