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Your interview: Operations director for First Capital Connect Jackie Townsend
7:00pm Saturday 31st August 2013 in News
ROB GERAGHTY, BEXHILL: When people’s wages are not increasing, how can FCC justify 4% price hikes to already inflated ticket prices? Do you think it’s fair on those people whose incomes are already squeezed and whose only option to get to work is to take a train?
JT: One thing we need to remember is that all regulated fares, such as season tickets and peak tickets, the price of increase of ticket is set by the Government. The Government set a minimum increase that we had to follow of RPI (Retail Price Index) plus 1%. That was reduced from 3%. You have to remember our tickets from Brighton are cheaper than Southern.
Secondly, with any fares we have control over such as off-peak, some have gone down and some haven’t gone up at all – they are the same price.
JOSEFINE O’DOCHERTY, PORTSLADE: Why are tickets so extortionately priced before 10am but people are still left standing for most of the journey? Why should I pay more money or full price when I can’t even get a seat?
JT: I think it reiterates my previous comment that before 10am ticket prices are set by the Government.
Although we endeavour to give people seats, that isn’t always possible. The way we are going to do that is run more eight and 12 car trains by 2018.
We do appreciate how crowded it is.
On the Sussex coast down to Brighton we run as many eight and 12 cars as we can – we physically haven’t got anymore. Lots of people want to travel up from Brighton. Trains break down and we can’t mend it – usually due to the fact they are over 23-years-old.
Where it’s possible prices are slightly cheaper back to Brighton than towards London but the cost of living is very high in Brighton and rates of pay aren’t as great in Brighton. More and more people are living in Brighton and we are aware of the overcrowding issues we have, which is why we are getting these new trains.
KATE ROBERTS, WOODINGDEAN: How do you respond to claims from passengers that train services between London and Brighton have dropped in quality and standards of service?
JT: People can write in to the customer complaints who respond with an official notification for the reason for it and what we are going to do about it. They can also Tweet, which is instantaneous. We have three people on the team who Tweet back and I would recommend people try it, it’s quite good. People can also make telephone calls. So basically any claim of poor quality or standards of service in any way will always get an official response and we will do our best to amend the situation.
GEORGE KENSINGTON, HOLLINGBURY: I have a young person’s railcard but I can’t use it before 10am. For someone who is on minimum wage and has to start work at 9am this doesn’t help me save any money at all, what is the point of restricting the times of use?
JT: During the peaks the trains are very busy, so you pay full price for your ticket. That’s why we have the price of the tickets lower off peak to encourage people to travel. Because it’s busy our trains are jam packed so it’s unfortunate for you and I understand, however we need to be pricing our tickets to encourage people to travel at other times and the peak services are full of people that have paid full price for their tickets.
DORIS ASHWORTH, HOVE: Is it fair that FCC travellers subsidise services in other parts of the country?
JT: When we had rail privatisation the government decided the fares were going to be set fares. Most of the money that comes into the rail industry is through subsidies.
It was agreed what the fares were going to be. The south east does subsidise quite a lot of regional parts of the company to enable them to have a train service. Many of the regional railways wouldn’t make any money at all. This is to enable everybody, where there’s any sort of market for people to travel, the facilities to travel by rail.
Personally I think it’s fair – just because you live in a rural part doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a train service. The whole industry subsidises each other to enable there to be a whole rail network throughout the UK.
PETER STEWART-WOODS, WORTHING: If one of your ticket machines is not working, I get slapped with a £20 fine, yet I often see people leaving their luggage in gangways and on seats, as well as people sitting in First Class without a first class ticket – why isn’t more being done to enforce the rules and ensure those of us who do intend to purchase a ticket are treated fairly?
JT: What we have done is put more revenue people on our trains. We are going through the trains more often to ensure people have a ticket and secondly they’re in the right place.
Luggage is a real issue especially with two airports on the routes.
There is more room on the older trains and there should be slightly more on the new trains. The real issue about luggage is all about being considerate about things.
THOM TOPP, BEXHILL: Where is all the extra money from price hikes going? It seems the prices go up but the service doesn’t.
JT: Prices go up, as I said before, because the Government says they must. In terms of service we have done a few things. We have increased the service down to Brighton and are now running 12 car trains and increased the frequency to Brighton.
We have new trains being rolled out and new infrastructure.
We are introducing all these new trains in 2018 to cater for the significant increase in rail travel.
In 2018 there will be brand new trains that will be eight and 12 car trains which will improve routes to Brighton, Cambridge and other places. It’s a significant improvement. Twenty-four trains an hour will be going through the Blackfriars core route.
We are significantly increasing the train service that we are giving. We are running additional services with 12 car trains Monday to Friday and on busy weekends.
We had 12 car trains down to Brighton over the bank holiday and the Thameslink programme is improving the infrastructure.
NATALIE EMMANUEL, SEAFORD: Year after year during the summer you can hardly move on trains because they are packed with students. Why do you not provide more trains and more carriages during what you know is a busy tourist period?
JT: The timetable we run changes twice a year but we are running to full capacity on southern routes – the most congested route in the country. We physically cannot get more trains down there.
ALI MARIE, EASTBOURNE: Why are you not more prepared for winter snow?
JT: We are looking at our own trains to make sure snow can’t get into the traffic motor and to make sure the doors don’t freeze up, as they ice up and then you can’t open the doors.
We will brief our drivers in changing their techniques when driving through the snow. You have to break softer and slower. When the leaves come in autumn they also have to change their techniques.
We work with National Rail to make sure they send out de-icing trains so rails don’t ice up. The whole thing is planned many months before to make sure that happens.
Last year wasn’t great. We have put more things together this year to make sure that we, along with National Rail and Southern, are prepared with our infrastructure for the snow.
When it’s very bad snow we run a reduced timetable and that’s to ensure that we can run the trains. If you run too many trains you end up not running any at all.
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