Thursday 28 January 2010

The First Crapital Con Job !!!!!

There are lies, damn lies and First Capital Connect performance statistics. If you look at the First Capital Connect website, you will see that for 13 Dec-9 Jan only 62.8% of trains arrived on time. Pretty shabby you may think. Well, it may surprise you to know that for the vast majority of passengers, the figures were far worse. You see the figure tells you how many trains arrived at their destination within 5 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. For someone like me, who regularly travels from Mill Hill Broadway to St Pancras, what does this mean? Not a lot as the actual destination for the train is Sutton. If it arrives 20 minutes late at St Pancras, where the vast majority of passengers get off and are inconvenienced, it doesn't count as late. It is only late if it arrives at Sutton 5 minutes late.

This means that if First Capital Connect can make up the 15 minutes between St Pancras and Sutton, then the train was officially on time, even though 95% of the passengers for that journey were extremely late. So you may ask, how can a train which is 20 minutes late make up 15 minutes?

Well there are two rather clever little tricks that I've noticed. The first trick is that they suddenly change the schedule, so that the train doesn't stop at certain stations. I've read that every stop a train makes adds 2 minutes to the journey time. This is the time to slow down, stop, let passengers off and then speed up. Between Blackfriars and Surrey there are 10 stations. If all of these are missed and the trains is made not stopping, it will arrive on time at Sutton and therefore will not count as a late train. Sadly for the 5% of passengers who want to travel to stations between Blackfriars and Sutton and who are already 20 minutes late, they have been completely let down. How many times have you arrived at the station only to find that the train is "not stopping". This is why. It is purely to allow First Capital Connect to avoid penalties for running a late train.

The second trick is even more sneaky. Have a look at these timetables Firstly we have the Bedford - Brighton timetable.  If you look at the Journey time from Bedford to Flitwick. The first train leaves at 18:54 and arrives at Flitwick at 19:04. A journey time of 10 minutes. Then look at the the journey time for the same train between Gatwick Airport and Brighton. It leaves Gatwick at 20:41 and arrives at 21:18, a journey time of 37 minutes.

Now have a look at the Timetable for Brighton to Bedford. Take the first train shown. At 17:08 the train leaves Brighton and arrives at Gatwick airport at 17:39. The journey takes 31 minutes. This is six minutes less than the train travelling exactly the same distance in the other direction. Now look at the arrival time at Bedford. It leaves Flitwick at 19:26 and arrives at 19:38. A journey time of 12 minutes, when the train travelling in the other direction takes 10 minutes. This pattern is repeated throughout the timetable.

You may wonder why this is relevant and why it is a con. Because as I said at the top of the article, the train is only late when it arrives more than 5 minutes after it's scheduled time at it's final destination. On trains travelling to Bedford, they are allowing an extra 2 minutes to catch up. On trains to Brighton, they are giving it 6 minutes. What this means is that it your train from Bedford is 10 minutes late getting into St Pancras, it can catch up between Gatwick an Brighton and so counts as on time. Look at this another way. Likewise, if your train is six minutes late at Flitwick, it will be "on time" when it arrives at Bedford. One other "little con" I've noticed is the fact that "semi fast" trains from St Pancras to Mill Hill (stopping only at West Hampstead) are now timetabled to take 15 minutes. In the days of British rail, the journey from Kings X Thameslink, stopping at West Hampstead, to Mill Hill took 14 minutes ( a longer journey). Could it be that they are running the trains slower, so they can speed them up if they need to catch up? I suppose it's irrelevant as the stats say they are usually late anyway.

What is truly staggering is the fact that with all of these fiddles and cons going on, they still only managed to run 62.8% of trains on time. From the blog stats I see that "Westminster" are reading this blog. If you are reading this Lord Adonis, this has gone on long enough. Strip First Capital Connect of their franchise. The figures you see for lateness are being nobbled. And if you are just a regular passenger and you haven't yet signed the petition, please do this now by following the link in the sidebar (unless you like being conned).

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