Wednesday 27 January 2010

"Do you want to lose the franchise like First Capital Connect?"

There is a simple reason for commuters on the Thameslink route having to suffer the daily tribulations that are inflicted upon them by this awful company. That reason is because their no 1 priority is to ensure huge cash returns for their directors bonuses and their shareholders dividends. Every time any measure is proposed which may improve the daily lot of passengers is proposed, chairman Martin Gilbert and CEO Moir Lockhead ask this question "What benefit does this deliver to the shareholders of First Group PLC?". If it can't be shown to increase profits, then the suggestion will be ignored. That is why First Group have a professional asset manager as their chairman. He knows how to find the G-spot of investors and knows how to keep the share price high.

The hard pressed passengers have a unique opportunity to change this equation at the moment. We can change it for all passengers of every train company across the country. We need the government to sack First Capital Connect for failure to deliver a proper service. There is an election approaching on the 6th May and the line passes through many marginal constituencies. This is one of the few times when politicians might actually listen to the people, the voters. If Lord Adonis were to sack First Capital Connect, this would have a massive impact across the country. Rail operators would sit up and take note. They would realise that passengers must be considered. When the question "What benefit does this deliver to the Shareholders?" is asked, the answer will come straight back "Do you want to lose the franchise like First Capital Connect?". You see First Group PLC pocket massive profits from the line. Losing the franchise will hit them where it hurts. It will send a strong message to all of the other companies. Let us not forget that all of the problems with the system have been caused entirely by bad management.

They are indulging in a massive PR operation to try and save the franchise and hope the protests go away. The truth is that unless they are stripped of the franchise, they will think they've got away with it. Removing the franchise will send a shot across the bows of all train operating companies, saying "get your house in order". Anything less will just perpetuate the existing status quo, where passengers are the last consideration for the Government and the Train companies.

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