First Capital Connect Strike - Pay deal in place to end dispute

PUBLISHED: 11:39 03 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:44 06 May 2010

RAIL misery which has affected thousands of Thameslink passengers is expected to end next week. First Capital Connect (FCC) has made a revised pay offer to ASLEF which the train drivers union will be recommending for acceptance when its executive meets ea

RAIL misery which has affected thousands of Thameslink passengers is expected to end next week.

First Capital Connect (FCC) has made a revised pay offer to ASLEF which the train drivers union will be recommending for acceptance when its executive meets early next week.

FCC is confident that drivers will start to return to working rest days and overtime once they hear the details of the pay offer and they will be able to reintroduce a full timetable as early as next week.

Currently services are running on a revised reduced timetable which FCC introduced when the impact of drivers refusing to work rest days and overtime in a dispute over pay started to hit hard.

The drivers were unhappy with a two-year deal offered by FCC with a pay freeze this year and a three per cent increase next year.

But FCC confirmed yesterday that they had made an improved two-year offer with a pay increase in both years - it was the lack of a pay rise in the current year which was the sticking point.

The unofficial industrial action began towards the end of October when passengers started reporting cancelled trains with no explanation. It transpired that the problems stemmed from an intensive programme of training which began in March to familiarise drivers with new trains coming on stream. Rather than employing more drivers, FCC relied on its staff to cover by working overtime and on their rest days.

But once the drivers found out that they were not going to get a pay rise this year, they refused to do the additional work.

In the past week St Albans MP Anne Main, who has been very critical of FCC over the dispute which she believes puts them in breach of their contract, has called a meeting with Mary Grant, group rail manager of FCC. It is to be held next Wednesday and all the MPs whose constituencies have been affected by the problems have been invited to come along and voice their concerns.

She said yesterday that it would go ahead because a number of issues still needed raising, including poor communication with MPs and with passengers and why FCC had not anticipated the situation they found themselves in.

l Furious passengers were given just one minute to get across the railway bridge at St Albans City Station and jump on a train yesterday morning after the platform for the London-bound train was changed at the last minute. At 10.02pm passengers waiting for the 10.03pm into London were told it was being moved from Platform 1 to 3. Travellers raced for the bridge but only half managed to get on the train before it pulled out.

St Albans councillor Anthony Rowlands, who was one of those who managed to secure a place, said: "The train didn't wait, leaving those people who were slower footed, elderly or with children behind. I had to rush and I am quicker than most."

A spokesperson for FCC said that they were investigating the possibility of a technology problem on the display screens. He added that the train would have had no option other than to move off rather than wait for passengers crossing the bridge.

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