Railway minister issues stinging rebuke to train operator
SHODDY is the word used by transport minister Lord Adonis to describe the efforts of First Capital Connect. The company runs trains – I baulk at calling it a service – between Bedford and Brighton, via Purley, East Croydon and Norwood Junction.
I sympathise wholeheartedly with borough residents who have the misfortune to travel with this company every working day. I do so only occasionally and I am fed up with its cavalier approach to passengers.
His lordship is threatening to take the franchise away. I suggest he does so unless the company agrees to run trains with no less than six carriages at all times.
I have travelled on this line at different times of day and on different days of the week. My train has never been less than well filled, which is good news for the company commercially. But it responds by shortening the trains andtreating passengers like sardines.
Much of the rolling stock is old by comparison with other companies’ trains on the same tracks. I know there was a problem with late delivery of new rolling stock last summer. The company borrowed a few train sets from fellow operators, but they are still a small minority of those in use.
I am please the transport secretary is prepared to champion the travelling public on this occasion, although cynicism suggests he might be currying favour for his own party in the forthcoming General and Local Elections.
But in one respect his lordship’s own performance could be described as shoddy too. Apparently his department still oversees the terms of employment of railway staff – what price privatisation? – and it still considers Sunday working to be voluntary.
This very anachronism caused Capital Connect to suspend its Sunday timetable at one stage because it couldn’t persuade enough drivers to ‘volunteer’.
Surely the time has come for a proper overhaul of railway practice so the system more closely reflects the way we live in the 21st century.
That may include withdrawing the First Capital Connect franchise; it must include employment contracts that allow staff to work any five days out of seven, to include Saturdays and Sundays.
David Callam is a freelance journalist and the former business editor of The Croydon Advertiser. For more examples of his work and to see what he could do for your business please visit www.callamedia.co.uk
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