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Train operator fined £75,000 for failing to protect safety of passengers

First Capital Connect (FCC) has today been fined a total of £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £27,718 following a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) after the company failed to protect the safety of passengers trapped on a broken down train at Dock Junction, London, in May 2011.

During the evening rush hour on 26 May 2011, an FCC service from Brighton to Bedford lost power and became stranded for approximately three hours, with around 700 passengers on board, at Dock Junction between St Pancras International and Kentish Town stations in North London. ORR’s investigation found that FCC had not adequately planned its response to deal with stranded trains or provided those on board with accurate information, working ventilation or toilet facilities. Passengers were forced to call National Rail Enquiries for updates and throughout the three hour period were repeatedly informed a rescue train would be arriving in ten minutes. Inaccurate passenger information updates and poor conditions on board resulted in many passengers opening the doors and leaving the train.

The risk of passengers taking independent action to leave the train in conditions such as these had already been recognised by the rail industry. FCC failed to act on relevant guidance developed after previous incidents of stranded trains. FCC pleaded guilty today to a charge under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Ian Prosser, ORR’s Director of Safety, said:

“ORR’s investigation into First Capital Connects’ response to a broken down train in North London highlighted that passengers were treated with a distinct lack of care, as the company committed a catalogue of errors.
“The company left hundreds of passengers trapped on a train for three hours with no air conditioning, toilets or communication system. The company’s response significantly increased the risk of passengers independently leaving the train onto the tracks, when the safest place for them was to stay on board until told otherwise.
“Since the incident, First Capital Connect has taken steps to rectify their management of similar situations. ORR is monitoring the company and will not hesitate to take action to ensure passengers are not placed in such a position again. Accurate and timely passenger information is essential not only for those planning journeys, but as this incident demonstrates, is critical for the safe running of the railways.”
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