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Big fine for FCC after passengers abandon broken-down train

First Capital Connect has to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs for putting passengers’ safety at risk during a three-hour breakdown at Dock Junction in 2011.

An ORR investigation found inaccurate information given to passengers, many of whom left the train due to the lack of air conditioning and awful state of the toilets.

Ian Prosser, the ORR’s director of safety, said: “Passengers were treated with a distinct lack of care, as the company committed a catalogue of errors.”

He blamed the company’s response to the incident for the decision of many of the 700 passengers to leave the train, which could have risked their safety.

First Capital Connected pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at Blackfriars Crown Court yesterday.

Prosser said: “Since the incident, First Capital Connect has taken steps to rectify their management of similar situations. ORR is monitoring the company and will not hesitate to take action to ensure passengers are not placed in such a position again. Accurate and timely passenger information is essential not only for those planning journeys, but as this incident demonstrates, is critical for the safe running of the railways.”

David Statham, First Capital Connect managing director, said: “The safety of our passengers is our top priority and we deeply regret what happened back in May 2011.

“We didn’t live up to our own high standards in the way we handled this event which is why we took quick and decisive action afterwards.

“We commissioned comprehensive internal and external investigations that led to a range of actions to ensure this unusual combination of events is extremely unlikely to happen again.

“The safest place for passengers while a controlled evacuation or rescue is being arranged is on the train and we have new processes, techniques and equipment to speed the process whenever possible and to make it more comfortable for those on board.

“We will reflect on the comments made by the judge in court today and ensure they are incorporated in our ongoing process of learning from this incident.

“We would like to apologise once again to all those affected.”

The operator, which faces a £75,000 fine and must pay £27,718 costs, said the following improvements have been put in place:

  • A specific process has been developed with Network Rail for dealing with stranded trains in central London and staff have been retrained
  • Train door vent screens now allow doors on this particular type of train to be opened for ventilation while preventing passengers from getting down
  • Emergency light sticks have been provided
  • A technique has been developed to prioritise power to keep the train PA system going for longer to provide better information
  • Staff have been re-briefed on the correct process for moving the train if the safety systems have to be overridden

It added: “The success of this approach was demonstrated when five trains were evacuated within 90 minutes in very difficult circumstances when overhead power lines came down at Radlett in February this year. On Sunday 15 September a crowded train was stranded near Kentish Town – again because of foliage in the overhead power equipment – and this was rescued by another train in 63 minutes.”

The RAIB’s report into this incident, published last year, is available here:

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]

(Library image of a First Capital Connect train, copyright Alvey & Towers)


Ricp   17/09/2013 at 21:04

Not a moment too soon, as FCC are an appallingly incompetent TOC, and it yet again shows the problem of poorly managed TOCs not knowing how to manage.

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