First Capital Connect tried to conceal the scale of likely disruption not just from the public but also MPs, Parliament has heard.
The troubled operator of the Brighton to Bedford line was forced to cancel a raft of services after drivers took unofficial industrial action in protest at continual demands to work overtime.
The problems were compounded during the bad weather, when its trains failed to cope with the icy weather.
Anne Main MP, who led the adjournment debate in the Commons yesterday, said: ‘I rang the company one evening and said, ‘Excuse me, this situation is getting so bad that I need to talk about it.’ The reply was, ‘Don’t worry. It’s going to improve tomorrow and there will be a much more reliable service’. I said, ‘Oh good. How is that going to occur?’ and the reply was, ‘We have cut the train service in half and we can guarantee that that half will be delivered.'”
She added: “The original problem stemmed from the company’s heavy reliance on staff good will to ensure that it could run its services. The drivers were not contracted for enough hours to run a full service, and their contracts did not include Sunday working. The model was bound to come to grief at some point.”
She also said that parliamentary questions revealed that Government ministers knew about the problems long before the general public – or other MPs.
Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames said: “My hon. Friend Nick Herbert and I met the management of First Capital Connect on Monday to complain about this wholly unacceptable service, about which she is so eloquently expounding.
“…one of the most important things is not just punctuality and all the rest of it, but the flow of information to the poor commuters who spend enormous sums of money trying to get from A to B and are then stranded without any information? In the age of the mobile telephone, that is unforgiveable.
“Will my hon. Friend [Anne Main] add that grotesque lack of information to the litany of very effective charges she has laid against the company’s door?”
First Capital Connect restored its timetable in January. However, transport minister Sadiq Khan has still not ruled out re-nationalising the service.
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