First Capital Connect - nightmare continues for commuters

PUBLISHED: 12:02 26 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010

PAY talks between First Capital Connect (FCC) and the rail union ASLEF were continuing this week in a bid to avert strike action. It follows confirmation from FCC last week that it would be putting an improved offer on the table in a bid to resolve the di

PAY talks between First Capital Connect (FCC) and the rail union ASLEF were continuing this week in a bid to avert strike action.

It follows confirmation from FCC last week that it would be putting an improved offer on the table in a bid to resolve the dispute which is over the lack of an annual pay rise.

As a result drivers have been refusing to work overtime and on rest days which has led to FCC having to issue a new timetable for the Thameslink line with reductions in services of up to 50 per cent.

ASLEF are now balloting their members on a fully-fledged strike over the issue to begin on December 9. They have rejected a two-year deal with a pay freeze this year and a minimum of a three per cent increase next year.

St Albans MP Anne Main has raised the issue in Parliament demanding the Transport Minister review FCC's franchise agreement.

And St Albans District Council (SADC) was due to consider a call for immediate action to resolve the dispute at last night's full council meeting.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, who is a regular commuter, said: "We pay some of the highest fares in the country for the privilege of travelling like cattle. It gets the working day off to a terrible start and then there are delays getting home again."

He was keen to find out what happened to the money FCC was saving on overtime pay.

A spokesman for FCC said he was hoping to attend the SADC meeting to outline the firm's commitment to St Albans in getting the service back to normal as quickly as possible.

He explained that an extra 12 services were added onto the revised timetable yesterday and added: "Talks are continuing and we have met the unions three times in the last week as we seek a resolution.

"However, there is no windfall cost saving. The majority of our costs are fixed, but where we are saving on other costs these are more than offset by payments to customers through Delay Repay, our compensation procedure.

He said they had now revised Delay Repay so that passengers could make several claims in one go for delayed trains and FCC was still encouraging customers whose journeys had been affected by more than 30 minutes to claim compensation.

FCC say they have recruited another 20 drivers but they won't be trained on the routes until next spring.

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