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First Capital Connect Delays

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A crap old first capital connect train

First Capital Connect Profits

Once more, this is NOT a blog! However, First Capital Connect's exploitation of that Retail Price Index/Inflation Rate 'loophole' to enable it to increase fares by between 6% and 9% warrants an update. Here's why:

The Bilby

The First Capital Connect Bilby

Ahhh... any excuse for a picture of a bilby, which is a marsupial. Mrs bilby's pouch faces backwards so she doesn't get soil in it when she's digging, which she does a lot (it's nice to have a hobby). I don't know how a pouch can face backwards though, I'll give it a little more thought and get back to you. Bilby interlude over.

Oh yes, the bilby doesn't drink water at all. Weird.

Done. As you were...

Everything was going to be alright, I was certain. I ran home and investigated the leaflets and logged on to the Thameslink Programme website. However, moments later I'd become distracted and found myself looking at the most expensive thing I could find on eBay.com (a Boeing 727 circa $3 million).

I did recall one of the few paragraphs of the Thameslink Programme website I had managed to read before the over-designed 'colouring book' look it had made me too nauseous to go on. I'll cheekily show you the paragraph below:

Will the Thameslink Programme be paid for by big fare increases?
No - there will not be any direct link between the investment in new trains and infrastructure and the fares charged to customers on the route.

The investment is being funded by the Department for Transport.

Well fan my brow. What IS FCC doing with all the money then?

Some of it goes to Moir Lockhead (below, right), the Chief Executive of FirstGroup, quite a lot of it actually. His pay is up a quarter of a million quid this year, to just over 1 million. I'm sure he needs it though, as he lives in Aberdeen on his 350 acre farm and has lots of flying up and down the country to do to get to important meetings.

I note he was knighted last year, so that's Sir Moir to you and me.

More Bull from First Capital Connect Sir Moir Lockhead

A lot of bull. The above is an Aberdeen Angus and is indeed one of Sir Moir's. That's Sir Moir himself on the right of course. Sir Moir Lockhead: The Cattle Farmer

Admittedly it's more likely that his pledge to grow FirstGroup shareholder payouts by 10% 'for the foreseeable future' - at least until 2010 is really where the money you and I hand over every day, week, month or year goes.

Last year the Evening Standard pointed out which rail firm had the biggest profit, but worst service. Yes, it was First Capital Connect.

Let's see if FCC can crack on and win this prestigious award again this year. I know I'm doing everything I can to help keep that profit up, my girlfriend too. Just going to work every day involves us paying 514 per month between us, for a 20 minute journey each way.

That's over 6000 per year and that is why I am cross.

Maybe if it does manage the most massive profits and worst service again this year I'll get a trophy made and send it to Sir Moir - he can put it on the shelf with the awards for his bull's semen he's won.

News from January 2009

FirstGroup's shares slid nearly 11% to 375.75p - making them the biggest faller on the FTSE 100. Why?

Because of problems with its North American Greyhound Bus division. Well, I mean! DUH!

There are dozens of customer reviews for Greyhound Bus Lines on Yelp.com, a US review site. Here are the New York Greyhound Bus reviews a few central themes there - one thing the Greyhound Bus business that FirstGroup owns has in common with First Capital Connect is: the service stinks.

However, as the bus service is relatively cheap, the resemblance ends there. I see why it was an attractive buy for FirstGroup though, as - like First Capital Connect - the bulk of its passengers have no choice.

In a move clearly aiming at replicating those US Greyhound Bus problems here in the UK, in August 2009 FirstGroup took the innovative step of introducing Greyhound Buses on an unsuspecting Portsmouth.

FirstGroup Greyhound Bus Moir Lockhead

There was no particular media interest in this, I mean, why the hell would there be? it's 'yet another crappy bus service' - welcome to 2009! Sir Moir is the chap above, with a Greyhound Bus and, errr... some greyhounds. Someone in PR somewhere clearly working overtime on that one. Most of the press merely disseminated a slightly cut down version of the formulaic far too-long press release. Even The Guardian couldn't be bothered with it - some great user comments left though. here's my favourite, already quoted above:

Oh good. 'Cos what we need is yet another crap bus service. And why is FirstGroup buying more companies when they can barely manage the ones they already own?

November 2009: FirstGroup gets 140 million government subsidy

I am not surprised Sir Moir is smiling: First Group says it is entitled to such a large government subsidy because it missed revenue targets by a wide margin. Bob Crow, general secretary of the rail workers' union RMT, has criticised the rail franchise system by saying 'the whole system has been an expensive disaster'.

This is getting a bit bloody embarassingly stupid now. The big joke that's making Sir Moir smile undoubtedly being the combination of passengers with no other options and a clearly confused governent policy that means us passengers and tax payers are paying even more than we thought i nthe first instance.

Hey, if you're *really* bored at work today, here's a 21 page transcript (it's a PDF) of a pre-close trading update telephone call that involves Sir Moir and a few other FirstGroupers (that's what they call each other, like people who work at Google are called 'Googlers') anyway, in the document the big boys and girls from FirstGroup discuss how much they are making, how much various divisions are getting in government subsidies, how recesion proof the North Amercian School Bus bit is, how many people they are planning to get rid of to save costs and so on.

Maybe print it out and read it while you're stood waiting for a train you can actually get on to turn up. I haven't stolen it, it's freely available on the FirstGroup website

Right then, back to business: What the hell can we do about First Capital Connect?

Alternatively, if you're bore with nerdy train chatter, find out about your Crapmaster

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