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First Capital Connect increases compensation offer
11:42am Wednesday 27th January 2010 in Commuter News
A commuter rail line that has enraged passengers with three months of delays and cancellations upped its compensation offer today amid calls for it to be stripped of its franchise.
First Capital Connect (FCC), which operates London commuter services, said it will give regular travellers a discount up to the equivalent of two weeks free travel.
Around 80,000 commuters a day use the rail operator's Thameslink line between Brighton and Bedford, suffering severe disruption after technical breakdowns and an industrial dispute which led to driver shortages in a row about overtime.
Snowy weather caused further misery for passengers on the route and, according to FCC's own figures, only 62.8% of trains were less than five minutes late between December 13 and January 9.
At the worst point, only a little over half of the total 3,900 trains were running.
Last week, which was the first since the full timetable was restored, 3,868 out of 3,970 train journeys were in operation.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has been monitoring FCC's performance and has pledged to look at "all options" if the firm, which is owned by FirstGroup, fails to "improve their service very significantly".
Meanwhile, disgruntled passengers and the RMT union have called for FCC to be stripped of its franchise.
A petition posted on the 10 Downing Street website calls the disruption a "gross lack of competence" and said the delays should be treated as a breach of contract. It has attracted almost 5,000 signatures.
FCC managing director Neal Lawson said: "We know the service hasn't been good enough.
"The dispute with drivers has now been resolved and trains that were damaged by the snow are returning to service."
He said this week and last week had seen a return to the full timetable for the first time since November.
"I hope customers noticed an improvement - but I know we've still got a long way to go," he added.
FCC said passengers affected by the disruption would receive their discount in addition to the standard payments for late-running trains.
Annual and monthly season ticket holders will be able to claim on their next purchase - equal to two weeks free travel - or tickets for 10 days. Some weekly ticket holders will also qualify for a discount.
First class passengers can claim back the difference between premium and standard tickets for the period between November 12 and January 23, when the carriages were open to all.
According to a report in The Times, the compensation package could cost the group about £1 million.
FirstGroup, which also runs the First Great Western rail franchise, received £140 million in Government subsidies last year.
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