Episode 114. In which First Capital Connect are rubbish.

Firstly, let me clarify that First Capital Connect, or FCC, or Effin’CC as I now call them, are rubbish at all times.  Almost constantly, fairly consistently, possibly to the death, you can rely on FCC to be rubbish.

Recently, though, they’ve outdone themselves.  I live in Brighton and work in the City of London, I rely heavily on FCC.  I don’t feel that’s unreasonable, I am only relying on them to do what it is they are paid to do, what they have a contract to do, what they, as an organisation, exist to do.

About three weeks ago they started mysteriously cancelling trains due to staff shortages.  Maybe it’s swine flu, I thought, or just bad management, too many people off on holiday.

Over the course of weeks and weeks of unreliable and overcrowded services, it finally became clear what was going on, and I was astounded at the stupidity.  It wasn’t a strike per se, but a lot of drivers were refusing to work overtime and days off.

Surely that shouldn’t be a big deal.  Oh, but it is.  Because FCC do not have enough drivers on the payroll to run its trains, unless they all volunteer to work overtime and days off.

Now that’s just ridiciulous.  It’s anyone’s right not to work more than their contracted hours, building your entire company on everyone always working extra time is idiotic.  Also, do I like the idea that my train is being driven by a guy on his fourth overtime shift of the week?  Not so much!

On Thursday 12th and Friday 13th November it all kicked off.  As I understand it, on Thursday basically everyone refused to do extra shifts, and by Friday it was an official strike action.  I saw notices about this on Wednesday night, so like the smart cookie I am, I prepared for it.  I checked what was going on online, made sure I knew what was and wasn’t running.  On Wednesday night I was asleep by 9pm, and awake by 5am on Thursday morning.  I made the sandwiches, got all dolled up, suited and booted, because I had a job interview.  I checked online what the latest situation was and decided that as my usual train was cancelled I’d go for the one before it, which was definitely running.

In the time between me checking one last time as I left the flat, and reaching the station, that train was cancelled.

And the info desk was crowded, whilst the info man explained that he knows how frustrating it is, but you see, management aren’t offering a pay deal!

I may or may not have mentioned this, but I am being made redundant.  I have my job for the time it will take to complete the planned restructure, and then I will be surplus to requirements.  I love my job, and I am very good at it, and therefore I get up every day and spend an hour and a half on a train, knowing I’ll spend another hour and a half on another train to get home after a day’s work.  Five days a week, I give up twelve hours of the day, even though it is no longer an investment in anything at all.

So it is hard for me not to tell info guy exactly why I do not care for his troubles, and expect to be conducted to my workplace as was agreed when I bought my season ticket.

First Capital Connect, as far as I am aware, do not care what their customers think of them.  They are generally unreliable, unless you rely on random cancellations, delays and rolling stock that is quite frankly just nasty.  So this strike, which is putting thousands of customers to massive inconvenience every day – in what way is it a punishment for FCC management, or incentive for them to do better?  If FCC were going to listen to the customers, and therefore do whatever it takes to ge the trains running, then they would probably also be inclined to keep the customer happy by just being better on a day to day basis.

It’s the commuters who are suffering, whilst FCC continue to sell tickets and season tickets despite not running most of their trains, and therefore not incurring the associated costs.  When trains don’t do extra shifts, FCC doesn’t have to *pay* for extra shifts.

Maybe that’s the plan.  Maybe they’re saving up until they have enough put aside to afford a better pay deal.  Maybe they’re saving up until they can afford to hire enough drivers to do what they’re paid for.

Frankly, I don’t care.  I can’t trust FCC, I can’t rely on them, and there is a very real possibility that my future travel needs will be met by Southern trains in conjunction with London Buses.  Yes, that will be inconvenient and a general pain in the arse, but I do have a tendency towards grudges where abysmal customer service is concerned.

Diabetic moment of the day

I had my swine flu jab today, what with being all delicate and all.  I am very impressed by the fact that I hardly felt the injection at all.  I mean I felt it, I’m not made of stone, but it hurt less than the seasonal flu jab, and an awful lot less than the pneumonia jab, which was closer to what I was expecting.  However, I do have the sore arm that I had expected from reports in the news and from friends.

But I’d rather have a sore arm than swine flu, that’s for damned sure.


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