First Capital Connect[1] (FCC) is a British train operating company, owned by FirstGroup, operating the Thameslink Great Northern franchise.

FCC operates passenger rail services from Luton and Bedford via the Thameslink route to Sutton, Wimbledon and Brighton and out of London King's Cross and London Moorgate to Cambridge, King's Lynn and Peterborough.


On 8 April 2005 the Strategic Rail Authority announced that Danish State Railways/EWS, First. John Laing/MTR, National Express and Stagecoach had been shortlisted for the Thameslink Great Northern franchise.[2] On 13 December 2005 the Department for Transport awarded the new franchise to First with the services operated by Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern transferring to First Capital Connect on 1 April 2006.[3]

The term of the franchise was originally for nine years, finishing in 2015. This was dependent on its meeting performance targets at the end of the fourth year, which will give an automatic two-year extension, and an extension for up to three years after the sixth year at the discretion of the DfT.[4] It was announced on 5 August 2011 that the franchise would now end on 14 September 2013. "This will help to facilitate the continued project delivery of the Thameslink Programme, in particular the introduction of new rolling stock, which will be completed after the expiry date of the existing franchise."[5]

The Thameslink franchise and the GN part of the WAGN franchise were amalgamated in preparation for the Thameslink Programme (formerly Thameslink 2000), which will increase capacity on the Thameslink route, with trains from King's Lynn, Cambridge and Peterborough.[6] On 24 July 2007 the government announced that it was fully committed to funding the Thameslink Programme,[7] and the project is now well under way.

In the early part of 2007 FCC conducted a study and undertook consultation on options for increasing the capacity of services to Peterborough and Cambridge. The final recommendations involved lengthening four peak services from eight to 12 carriages from May 2009, and adding or removing a small number of stops to balance loads between trains.[8][9] 1,779 more seats have been provided during the morning peak and 2,490 during the evening peak, significantly reducing the number of rush-hour commuters unable to find a seat.Template:Citation needed

Current routesEdit

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The current routes operated by First Capital Connect off-peak Monday to Friday are, with frequencies in trains per hour:

Great NorthernEdit

From London King's CrossEdit

  • to Peterborough – 2 (1 semi-fast, 1 stopping)
  • to Cambridge (non-stop) – 2 (1 extended to King's Lynn)
  • to Cambridge – 2 (1 semi-fast, 1 stopping)

From London MoorgateEdit

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  • to Hertford North via Gordon Hill – 3 (1 extended to Letchworth Garden City)
  • to Welwyn Garden City – 3

Unlike the Thameslink route, there is only one control centre for FCC services on the Great Northern route, at King's Cross, within the power signal box.


File:317342 AND 317340 Peterborough.JPG
File:365501 B Peterborough.JPG
  • Sevenoaks via Catford to Kentish Town (off-peak) or Bedford (peak only)– 2 (jointly operated with Southeastern)
  • Bedford to Brighton– 4 (2 semi-fast, 2 stopping)
  • Luton to Sutton (London) via Wimbledon– 2
  • St Albans to Sutton (London) via Mitcham Junction– 2

This gives a frequency of 10 trains between London Blackfriars and St Pancras. During the peaks this increases.

FCC has two control centres (or 'Service Delivery Centres', SDC) for the Thameslink route. North of Blackfriars is controlled from West Hampstead, within the power signal box; south of Blackfriars from Croydon, which is also home to other southern TOC controls.


Performance figures for FCC covering the four-week period from 17 August to 13 September 2008 were the best performance figures in the franchise history. Public Performance Measurement (PPM) reached 93.94% which is the highest level achieved in the two-and-a-half years of the First Capital Connect franchise and for the previous eight years of operating. During this period, 1.39% of services were cancelled, beating the previous low of 1.72% obtained in March 2008.[10]

Official figures released by NR (Network Rail) for period 7 of the financial year 2013-14 were 88.9% PPM, down 3.4 percentage points on the same period the previous year, whilst the MAA was 87.4% up to 12 October 2013.[11]

Major service disruptionsEdit

The disruptions were triggered by FCC drivers declining to work overtime or during their allotted rest days, following their rejection of a proposed pay increase of 0% (rising to 3% in 2010). Without access to overtime and rest day work, FCC was unable to provide enough drivers to maintain its standard Thameslink service.[12] Disruption continued into January 2010 as a result of heavy snow in south-east England; although snow was not the only problem, and although significant snowfall ended on 6 January, FCC continued to run emergency timetables through to 11 January.[13]

Trains returned to the normal timetables from Monday 18 January,[14] but delays and cancellations continued as a result of signalling problems. It was revealed that First Capital Connect achieved 60% in its punctuality during the first half of January 2010 on the Thameslink route. First Capital Connect has since offered improved discount and refund packages for customers affected by the disruption.[15]

On 23 December 2010 FCC introduced an emergency timetable on the Great Northern route, reducing the number of rush-hour trains by 75%. This was due to snow which had damaged some of the trains, making them unable to run.Template:Citation needed

Customer satisfactionEdit

Angry commuters started a petition on the Prime Minister's website to end First Capital Connect's franchise during 2009.[16] Other people have asked for a full enquiry into the service,Template:Citation needed while Lord Adonis, the former Secretary of State for Transport, described the service offered by FCC on its Thameslink route as "shoddy" and "very substandard", and said that if improvements were not made the company could be stripped of its franchise.[17][18]

In its Autumn 2009 National Passenger Survey, Passenger Focus said FCC had the lowest overall satisfaction rating of any UK train operator, at 75%.[19]


First Capital Connect has been criticised for running some of the country's most overcrowded trains; the 07.15 from Cambridge to King's Cross frequently was reported to have had 76 people standing for every 100 seated.[20] This situation was recognised by FCC itself: "We recognise that overcrowding is the biggest issue affecting our customers. This is at an unacceptable level on some of our services".[21] From 27 May 2009 FCC introduced extra carriages, which meant that this service became a 12-car train rather than an 8-car.Template:Citation needed In early 2013, Which magazine carried out a survey which rated First Capital Connect as the worst train operator.



In January 2007, FCC's regulated fares increased by an average of 3.5% and unregulated fares by 4.3%.[22] In January 2008 both regulated and unregulated fares rose by an average of 4.8%.[23] In January 2009, the increases were 6% for regulated fares and 9% for unregulated fares.[24]

Like First Great Western from Paddington, in mid-2006 First Capital Connect introduced evening peak-time fares for northbound travel out of London. Previously passengers with an off-peak travelcard could travel on any train after the morning peak had finished at 09.30. Now passengers may no longer use an off-peak ticket for trains leaving London stations between 16.30 and 19.01. Passengers using these peak-hour trains must pay an additional charge to travel. The evening peak restriction does not affect southbound travel. This was introduced due to severe peak overcrowding.[25]

Students at some sixth-form colleges were hit by price increases of over £300 per annum when FCC replaced a discount scheme introduced by previous franchise holders WAGN and Thameslink, with its own 'Student Connect'[26] scheme. The level of discount is greatly reduced, and although in theory the scheme is fairer, in practice many students and parents were left out of pocket.[27]


In September 2010, First Capital Connect admitted in an email that, despite being trained in first aid, staff were not allowed to offer medical help to members of the public. An incident was reported by the BBC after a passenger collapsed and FCC's station staff would not help.[28]

In October 2010, passengers trapped on a failed train near Cambridge gave up waiting, forced the train doors open and walked up the line to the nearby Foxton station.[29]

On 26 May 2011 at 18.27, passengers were trapped on a failed Class 377 train between St Pancras International (Low Level) and Kentish Town stations, forming the 16.30 Brighton to Bedford. Another train of the same type was sent to assist the failed train, and was eventually coupled to it at 20.20 but by this time passengers had used the emergency release handles to open the train doors in an attempt to improve ventilation (the air-conditioning and lighting systems were no longer functioning). The train began to move at 21.03 but this movement was immediately stopped because passengers were getting out on to the railway from the carriages within the tunnel. The passengers were escorted back on to the train, which was authorised to move forward again at 21.12. Three sets of doors towards the rear of the train were still fully open while it travelled approximately a mile to Kentish Town, where all passengers left the train.[30] First Capital Connect admitted a number of failings in the way in which it handled this incident, including a need to improve communications with passengers.[31]

Rolling stockEdit

Current fleetEdit

The fleet composition is specified by the franchise agreement.[32]

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 03 100px diesel locomotive 28 46 1 Shunting 1957–1961
Class 313 100px EMU 75 120 44 Inner suburban Great Northern
(Moorgate - Letchworth Garden City/Hertford North/Welwyn Garden City)
Class 317/1 100px 100 160 12 Fast & Semi Fast Great Northern London to Peterborough & Cambridge 1981–1982
Class 319 100px 100 160 86[33] Thameslink
(Brighton - Bedford, Sutton - Luton and Kentish Town - Sevenoaks)
Class 321 100px 100 160 13 Fast & Semi Fast Great Northern London to Peterborough & Cambridge 1989–1990
Class 365 Networker Express 100px 100 160 40 Fast & Semi Fast Great Northern London to Peterborough & King's Lynn via Cambridge 1994–1995
Class 377/2 Electrostar 100px 100 160 3 Thameslink
(Brighton - Bedford and peak services: Bedford - Ashford International/Rochester)
Sub-leased from Southern.
Class 377/5 Electrostar 100px 100 160 23 2008–2009

All Thameslink route rolling stock is electrically powered dual-voltage four-car units using 25 kV AC overhead power north of Farringdon and 750 V DC third rail to the south.

In addition to its EMU fleet, FCC owns the last mainline-registered Class 03 diesel shunter, 03179 Clive.

Additional rolling stockEdit

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An additional four Class 319 units were transferred from Southern in March 2009 to expand capacity on the Thameslink route, giving FCC all 86 319s.Template:Citation needed The DfT ordered 23 new dual-voltage Class 377 units for Southern, which entered service in 2010 and are being used by FCC until the new Thameslink rolling stock is introduced, to further enhance capacity on the Thameslink services.[34] FCC has also gained 13 Class 321 units: 321401-406 in May 2009 and 321407-410 later in 2009, 321418-420 in 2010. These will enhance the capacity on Peterborough - King's Cross services, freeing more Class 365 units for King's Lynn - Cambridge - King's Cross services. Three Class 313 units from London Overground moved to the Great Northern route for inner-suburban services, King's Cross/Moorgate - Welwyn Garden City/Hertford North/Letchworth Garden City, once all of London Overground's new Template:Brc were delivered.

All Class 377/5 Electrostars used on the Thameslink route now received have full 'First Urban' branding. A full internal refurbishment and deep clean has been completed on some of the class 321s.[35]

Separate from the government's rolling stock plan is the procurement of new rolling stock for use on the expanded Thameslink route, which will replace the current units including the Thameslink routes' Class 319 units and 377/5s and the Great Northern's route's older stock. Around 1200 dual-voltage EMU vehicles[36] are planned, likely to be delivered in fixed formations in either 160m or 240m lengths. The new bid for trains is specified on the basis of length rather than number of carriages to allow bidders to solve the problems of mass numbers of people leaving/boarding a train in under a minute. 160m is currently the length of an eight-car train, 240m a 12-car train. The new stock was due to enter service from late 2011,[37] with the first being delivered for testing in spring 2011,[38] but the project was delayed, and Siemens Mobility was named preferred bidder on 16 June 2011, with its Siemens Desiro platform.[36] Delivery is planned for 2015 to 2018.[36]

First capital connect DiagramsEdit

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FCC depots are at:


The company has been gradually overhauling its fleet of trains,[39] painting them in the FCC livery and refreshing the interiors, and has an £8 million programme of upgrades for several major stations.[40]

Both WAGN and Thameslink trains are being repainted into FCC livery, a light-blue-to-dark blue shading with pink doors and a striped motif. New blue upholstery, linoleum and carpeting have been fitted, and the lavatories have been repainted. Newer refurbishments and repaints are now wearing plain purple rather than "gradiented" blue - purple vinyls on outside body shells.


It was announced in December 2011 that when the franchise is renewed in 2013, all services that FCC run will continue in the new Thameslink franchise and be merged with the Southern franchise when that ends.[41]

The Department for Transport has announced that at the conclusion of the Southern franchise in July 2015, the South Central franchise will be merged into the Thameslink Great Northern franchise to form a Thameslink Southern Great Northern franchise.[42]

On 29 March 2012 the Department for Transport announced Abellio, First, Govia, MTR and Stagecoach have been shortlisted for the new franchise.[43][44]

The Invitation to Tender was to have been issued in October 2012, with the successful bidder announced in Spring 2013. However in the wake of the InterCity West Coast refranchising process collapsing, the government announced in October 2012 that the process would be put on hold pending the results of a review.[45]

In January 2013 the government announced it would be exercising an option to extend the franchise until 31 March 2014. It intends to enter negotiations with FirstGroup to operate the franchise on a management contract for up to two years.[46]

In March 2013 the Secretary of State for Transport announced the franchise would again be extended until 13 September 2014.[47]

See alsoEdit


References Edit

  1. Companies House extract company no 5281077 First Capital Connect Limited
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  26. FCC Student Connect website
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  34. Rolling Stock Plan - Indicative Number of Additional Vehicles required by English TOCs by 2014
  35. Today's Railways issue 87
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  46. Rail franchising future programme Department for Transport 31 January 2013
  47. "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers" Secretary of State for Transport statement 26 March 2013

External links Edit

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