Pregnant woman’s horror First Capital Connect train ordeal

PUBLISHED: 18:31 02 June 2011

First Capital Connect.

First Capital Connect.

Archant

A MOTHER-TO-BE has spoken of the terrifying ordeal she underwent when trapped on a First Capital Connect train for over three hours last Thursday night.

The woman, who asked to be known only as Mrs Roberts, is five months pregnant. She was eventually attended to by paramedics but not before the frantic commuter attempted to escape the sweltering conditions on board the stranded train by jumping from her carriage.

The train, which had suffered a power failure, had ground to a halt close to Kentish Town station with half of its carriages inside a tunnel. Commuters on the overcrowded carriages were left frustrated when no information was forthcoming and many turned to FCC’s Twitter feed for information.

Unbearable

Mrs Roberts says she asked, via Twitter, for help after the situation became unbearable but none was sent. When a fellow passenger broke a door to get fresh air into the carriage, the pregnant commuter decided she would have to get herself off the train.

She said: “The heat was unbearable and with just one window per carriage in these new trains, which opened just five centimetres, the condensation was dripping down the windows.

“It was pitch black and we were there for over three hours. The driver spoke to us just once, very early on, to tell us that there would be a train along in 10 minutes. I had some phone signal and ended up communicating with FCC through Twitter.

“I know I shouldn’t have got off the train but I was feeling dizzy and desperately needed some water. I was shaking. I was asking for help and being told by FCC to ‘sit tight’.”

Her train had ground to a halt close to Kentish Town after a loud bang and what Mrs Roberts described as an explosion further down the train. Soon after stopping, the lights went out.

The Twitter feed responded to individual questions but when Mrs Roberts asked for assistance, she says she was told an ambulance would be waiting for her on the platform.

Dehydrated and beginning to feel claustrophobic, Mrs Roberts described jumping from the train and then watching in horror as the train began to move. “I was really conscious of being between the train and the wall and of course, the line could have been live, but I was that desperate.”

Staff encouraged her to get back onto the train and when she did, she collapsed and was assisted by other passengers.

She added: “The only reason the paramedics eventually came was because my husband, who had driven to the station to get me and was on the platform with them, demanded that someone come and get me.”

The dramatic events began when the FCC train first pulled into St Pancras and some passengers described hearing an explosion and seeing people on the platform running away from the train. Worried passengers on board tried to open the doors but found them locked.

An announcement then advised all passengers heading to Luton or Bedford to take an alternative route but many St Albans-bound commuters remained on board, only to be told as the train pulled out of the station that it would terminate at Kentish Town.

When Mrs Roberts spoke with customer services last Friday she says she was informed that FCC staff had known the train would terminate at Kentish Town before it pulled out of the station, but had failed to tell passengers.

A tired and frantic Mrs Roberts was eventually reunited with her husband at Kentish Town but chaotic scenes meant it took them 20 minutes to get off the platform. Unable to face train travel on Friday and weakened by her ordeal, she was forced to take the day off work. “FCC really need to learn from this but I bet they won’t.”

A spokesperson for FCC said: “We’d like to sincerely apologise to any customers who experienced delays on Thursday evening. A train failed near Kentish Town which caused major delays throughout the evening for our Thameslink route customers.

“Any customers who experienced delays should contact a customer relations advisor or visit our website for information on how to claim their compensation.

“There will now be a full review carried out by an independent railway consultant, the findings of which will be made public.

“We made every effort to keep customers updated and our Twitter manager was busy talking directly to customers affected. Our customers’ safety was our number one priority throughout this disruption. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”


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