First Capital Connect could be stripped of franchise after cancellations and delays

First Capital Connect could be stripped of its franchise after “unacceptable” cancellations and delays caused by industrial action in a row over pay and Sunday working, the transport secretary has warned.

Hundreds of thousands of commuters have suffered almost three months of severe disruption on the line, which runs between Bedford and Brighton, after drivers refused to work voluntary overtime in a row over pay.

Andrew Adonis told the Times: “The Thameslink service provided by First Capital Connect continues to be unacceptable in terms of cancellations, punctuality, passenger service and information. I am, therefore, considering all options open to the government.”

However, civil servants have written to passengers telling them there were no legal grounds to take back the franchise.

Last year, the rail operator’s staff refused to work overtime after it announced plans to freeze wages and offer a minimum 3% rise this year.

The firm told Personnel Today it had relied on a number of staff to work overtime for many years, and could not simply hire new staff to make up the hours because it took two years to train drivers and there were no suitable banks of staff available.

A First Capital Connect spokesman said at the time: “This hasn’t been an issue before. We have operated for three-and-a-half years with no such cancellations, and performance and punctuality have improved.”

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