The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
Stop Press re: First Capital Connect
Posted Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 14:07

I thought Mid Bedfordshire commuters would be interested to read the following email I received this morning:

 

'Nadine,

The purpose of this note is to give you a brief update on our Thameslink route services ahead of tomorrow’s expected announcement by ASLEF of the result of the drivers’ ballot. As you know, ASLEF have recommended acceptance of the pay offer made to our drivers.

We fully acknowledge that the service provided by First Capital Connect on the Thameslink route on both Friday 8 and, particularly, Monday 11 January was not acceptable. With our normal service offering twelve or more FCC trains an hour to London on the Thameslink route during the morning peak, just two trains an hour was clearly not going to meet passenger demand. In fact we had planned to run 4 – 6 trains an hour during the morning and evening peaks yesterday but were unable to do so due to rolling stock being unavailable as a result of the breakdowns caused by the extreme weather conditions.

The service this morning was considerably better, with a revised timetable offering around 70% of our full timetabled schedule in operation. Our key objective is to be able to offer the full Thameslink route service, as detailed in the December timetable, as soon as possible.

Our service was severely impacted by the exceptionally cold weather on Thursday 7 and Friday 8 January. One of the key benefits of the Thameslink route – the ability to travel from Bedford to Brighton without changing trains and stations in central London – can also be the reason for delays, as any disruption encountered either north or south of London will impact on the rest of the train’s journey.

On both days Network Rail restricted FCC services to the slow lines as the points on all junctions between Bedford and London were frozen. Icicles formed on the overhead power lines which often caused the tripping of these power lines. The build up of snow and ice caused the sliding doors to freeze on many trains. In addition the snow affected a number of traction motors, resulting in the trains having to be taken out of service.

Door icing
No Thameslink route trains have been washed during the recent and current near freezing temperatures. In fact we have received a number of complaints about the outside of the trains being very dirty. A liquid de-icing fluid is sprayed around the doors to try to prevent them freezing up and the correct application process has been re-briefed.

When a train runs at speed it causes the snow lying on and around the track to swirl around. This snow tends to settle in the crevices around the sliding doors on the Class 319s and can then ice over. This is not a problem on the new Class 377 Electrostars neither on the Thameslink route nor on the Class 365s on the GN route, as these have plug doors.

Train maintenance
As you know, the Class 319s are some 20 years old and are mid-life Electric Multiple Units (EMUs). The moving annual average number of miles between any technical failure causing a delay of 5 minutes or more is currently in excess of 14,500 – this makes it 10th best out of a list of 31 mid-life EMUs, which could only be achieved if our maintenance regime is robust. Of course we would like to see these trains perform better and will ensure that any lessons in relation to winter preparedness are learned.

Compensation to Thameslink route customers
Many customers will have heard that plans for further compensation above and beyond Delay Repay were being finalised. This was going to take the form of five tickets equivalent to five return journeys with First Capital Connect.

However, following the ongoing severe disruption to Thameslink route services due to the extreme weather conditions, we have reviewed the planned customer compensation package and now propose a revised and increased compensation deal. Details of this will follow in due course and we will advise how this can be claimed via our website.


We will contact you again as soon as we have received the result of the ballot from ASLEF.

With kind regards,

 

First Capital Connect'

 
 
 
 
Contact Nadine
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
via e-mail at: nadine.dorries.mp@parliament.uk
or Telephone on 020 7219 5928

 
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