FCC apologises for overcrowding

Grab rails on seats and wider aisles in the Class 700
Grab rails on seats and wider aisles in the Class 700

First Capital Connect has apologised to commuters from Haywards Heath who are faced with overcrowded and delayed trains but has promised roomier carriages (pictured) in its new fleet coming on stream in 2016.

Garth Waters commutes from Haywards Heath on the 7.47am First Capital Connect train from Brighton to Bedford.

He told the Middy: “They’re constantly delayed, you can’t rely on them. What can you do? You don’t have a choice, you can’t drive into London every day.

“It’s not like it’s cheap, it’s expensive; it’s a poor service for the money we pay on the same old dilapidated trains. It’s just foul, and it doesn’t improve.”

Mr Waters became so frustrated by the constant delays that he decided to become one of more than 2,000 members on a Facebook page ‘I Hate First Capital Connect’ .

He said: “Trains are late every other day, it does get a bit embarrassing. The only things they seem to have spot on are the ticket inspectors.

“You get a refund if it’s over half an hour late but they’re always late by ten or 15 minutes. They should change the boundaries.

“When it’s ten minutes late I miss my bus and have to spend ten pounds on a taxi on top of the £87.50 I spend a week on a train ticket.”

A spokesman for First Capital Connect has said 78 per cent of the delays on the Brighton line this January were for reasons outside its control, such as over-running engineering work by Network Rail, flooding in Balcombe Tunnel and overhead power line damage.

The spokesman, Christopher Penn, said: “Performance on the Brighton Main Line from Haywards Heath has not been as good as our customers deserve and while we may be responsible for only 22 per cent of the delays, we are doing all we can to improve this.”

First Capital Connect acknowledge that performance has fallen over the last few months, with just 78 per cent of its trains arriving on time in January on the Thameslink route.

This month a new platform was opened at Gatwick Airport separating Gatwick Express services from Brighton Main Line services, which First Capital Connect said will reduce delays. But delays are not the only problem faced by commuters.

Commuter Garth Waters said: “Capacity is the main issue. They tell us we can get the first off-peak train but the first one only has four carriages. It’s so full you can’t get on.

“It’s ok if you’re at the start of the line, but it gets worse and worse further into London.”

He said passengers travelling to London from Brighton, Preston Park, Hassocks and Burgess Hill have already filled the carriages by the time the train arrives at Haywards Heath.

FCC Spokesman Christopher Penn said: “The route is one of the busiest in Europe and we share our passengers’ frustration as we run every train we have available under this franchise and there is still crowding.

“However, only last month, we unveiled the new Class 700 Thameslink train which will have more carriages, allowing us to improve capacity on the route from 2016.”