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First Capital Connect links London

April 6th 2006

At 2am on Saturday 1 April, one of Britain’s newest train companies began operations. First Capital Connect unites the former Great Northern and Thameslink franchises for six years, with a possible three year extension.

Elaine Holt and Moir LockheadThe franchise area stretches from Kings Lynn to Brighton, serving such important centres as Cambridge, Peterborough, Gatwick Airport and Luton, with Kings Cross acting as the main London terminal.

First is investing £52 million into improvements to trains, staff, stations, and security over the first three years of operation.

All trains are in the process of receiving new external liveries and will be thoroughly refurbished internally. They will get a major clean every six months, and on-board announcements and facilities are to be improved, with more on-train tickets available.

Major stations will be upgraded, including new electronic information displays. More revenue protection staff have been employed, and 24 new police community support officers will be supported by five new British Transport Police staff.

A new CCTV control centre has been set up with a specialist head of security to be appointed. There will be more CCTV cameras, passenger help points and automatic ticket gates at stations across the franchise.

There will also be major investments in staff, who have been given new uniforms. An increased focus on customers will be made by front line staff and through the company’s web site.

Elaine Holt is First Capital Connect’s managing director, who has been involved since bidding began in May last year. “This is a very proud moment for me – I worked on this when it was just on paper, and now it’s here!” she said.

“It was a very thorough process of getting to know the railway – and bringing together two different sets of information from two different operators, which meant double the work,” Elaine explained. She added: “I enjoyed so much getting the service going and we have to keep that momentum.”

She said that £8m will go into station improvements, with the first ones to be redeveloped being those with most customers. First Capital Connect will work with local authorities to see if they can match the funding they put in.

“There is a lot going on very quickly – the Olympics, St Pancras station, and Thameslink for starters,” Elaine said. “There is a lot of energy, drive and commitment from our people towards our customers. I would like to say thank you to the people involved in winning the bid and mobilising the franchise.”

Moir Lockhead, First Group chief executive, added: “We will invest real cash, and the public will see it on trains, at stations and in communication systems. We have got a team who will deliver real, tangible benefits over the next few years. There are different benchmarks to rail improvements we wish to provide.”

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