Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Open letter to David Statham - Managing Director of First Capital Connect

From: Roger Tichborne
Sent: Monday, October 21, 2013 8:30 AM
Subject: Disruption on First Capital Connect 22/10/2013

Dear Mr Statham,
I am writing as a regular user of the Thameslink service operated by your company. I regularly travel between Mill Hill Broadway and Central London on the route. Last night I had to use the service to get to West Hampstead to pick up a connection to Shepherds Bush. I had tickets to see a concert and had arranged to meet friends before.
On arrival at Mill Hill Broadway Station, I saw that there was disruption. An announcement on the message board told me that a tragic incident had occurred at Radlett, where a train had hit a person. Clearly in such a case, a train company cannot avoid disruption and it would be unreasonable to expect a train company not to have issues running a service. What would not be unreasonable would be to expect the train company to inform passengers of what is going on. First Capital Connect have digital noticeboards which should display accurate train information. They also have station staff and a PA systems, linked to a central control.

Every passenger using your service has a requirement to go somewhere and get there at a set time. People do not set off at random times with no expectation of getting anywhere. Often people have appointments or arrangements. All they want a train company to do is get them there and if they can't do that on time, give them a reasonable estimate of when they will arrive. Arriving at Mill Hill Broadway at 18:10, there was no indication at all of when the next train would arrive. The various message boards were completely unhelpful. The first train, a Sutton Service was showing as cancelled. The next service scheduled to arrive was the 18:20. This was running late and was expected at 18:34. With this timescale, I decided that it would be quicker to wait for this service than to take a bus and tube. I waited several minutes before using my Oyster card to touch in. I observed that the ETA of the train was not changing, therefore I had a reasonable expectation that the train would arrive.
Approx one minute before the train was due to arrive, the noticeboard suddenly changed. It said "stand back from the platform edge, fast train approaching". An announcement was made to the same effect. When the message cleared, the 18:20 was still showing as due. Two minutes later it disappeared. The next train then showed as arriving in ten minutes. By this time there were many passengers and all were frustrated and rather bemused. Although the next train did arrive when it said, I missed my connection at West Hampstead and was late for the arranged meeting. This resulted in missing the start of the first band, The Selecter, who I had been keen to see.
As I said, I don't expect miracles from your company when things go wrong. I simply expect you to tell me what is happening. It is not plausable for you to say that no one in your organisation knew the 18:20 would not stop at Mill Hill until two minutes after your noticeboard said it was due. The driver and the signalling system must have known. This information should be relayed to customers. In my case, I used my Oyster to touch in for a journey, based on this information, rather than take another route. Presumably the misinformation has generated a profit for FCC at my expense.
As managing director of the organisation, can I suggest that you conduct a review of your information systems as a matter of urgency.

Roger Tichborne

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