First Capital Connect promises better service for the future

FIRST Capital Connect (FCC) bosses updated the council on service improvements last week.

The district council’s overview and scrutiny committee was given a presentation from FCC managing director Neal Lawson and integration and partnership manager Larry Heyman, as well as Network Rail’s route enhancement manager Spencer Gibbens.

The committee put commuters’ concerns about the performance of the Thameslink service during last winter’s bitter conditions to Mr Lawson in June this year and he agreed to address a number of issues raised, with the aim of improving the situation in the future.

Ice and snow as well as a driver dispute caused severe disruption on the line between November 2009 and January this year and on some occasions the service ground to a halt, with complaints surrounding communication, capacity and technical problems.

Mr Lawson reported progress with maintenance, punctuality and the training of drivers and said investment had been made in communication, with computers at the ticket gates and Blackberrys being issued to staff.

In response Cllr Julian Daly, chair of the committee, welcomed the improvements but was critical of the poor communications during the recent severe winter conditions.

He noted problems, especially at Kings Cross and St Pancras, where more trains were being made available on upper platforms without it being adequately communicated to those waiting on the lower platforms – but thanked FCC staff for putting in long hours and hard work to keep the service going despite the snow and ice.

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n A power outage at Harpenden railway station caused the ticket machines and information screens to stop working on Tuesday.

The outage which happened at about 8am meant that passengers were unable to buy any tickets or find out any information about their journeys.

A spokesperson for FCC said staff had been assisting passengers during peak periods, and those unable to purchase tickets at the station were able to buy them upon arrival at their destination instead.