UK Transport Wiki
First Capital Connect
[[Image:File.First capital connect logo.png|200px]]

Franchise(s):Thameslink/Great Northern
1 April 2006 – November 2015
Main station(s):King's Cross, Stevenage, Peterborough, Cambridge, St Pancras, Luton, Bedford, Hertford North, Brighton
Other station(s):Luton Airport Parkway, St Albans, West Hampstead Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge, Moorgate Station, Gatwick Airport, Wimbledon, King's Lynn, Finsbury Park, Welwyn Garden City, Biggleswade, Letchworth, Ely
Fleet size:1 Template:Brc shunting locomotive
41 Template:Brc sets
12 Template:Brc sets
86 Template:Brc sets
13 Template:Brc sets
40 Template:Brc Networker Express sets
23 Template:Brc Electrostar sets
Stations called at:approx. 129
Stations operated:79
Passenger km 2007/8:3212.3 million
Route km operated:778.9
National Rail abbreviation:FC
Parent company:FirstGroup

First Capital Connect (FCC) was a passenger train operating company in England that began operations on the National Rail network on 1 April 2006. It is owned by FirstGroup and combines the service on the cross-London Thameslink railway line between Brighton and Bedford with services along the East Coast Main Line from King's Cross and Moorgate to Peterborough, Cambridge, and King's Lynn formerly operated by WAGN, which is now often referred to as the Great Northern Route.

First Capital Connect is in the process of overhauling their fleet of trains,[1] painting them in the FCC livery and refreshing the interiors, as well as an £8 million programme of upgrades for several major stations.[2]

The full term of the franchise is for nine years, finishing in 2015, however, this depends on them 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.[3]

The Thameslink and WAGN franchises were amalgamated in preparation for the Thameslink Programme (formerly Thameslink 2000), which will increase capacity on the Thameslink route and allow trains from King's Lynn, Cambridge and Peterborough to run via the Thameslink route.[citation needed] On 24 July 2007 the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, formally announced that the Government was fully committed to funding the Thameslink Programme. Since the planning permission and legal powers associated with the project have already been granted, the project is now clear to proceed.[4]


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 involve lengthening four peak services from 8 to 12 carriages from May 2009, and adding or removing a small number of stops to balance loads between trains.[5] [6] 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.

On 19 June 2008 FCC started testing a Class 377 Electrostar train in anticipation of the introduction of 23 x 4-car units on the Bedford to Brighton route in March the following year. The Electrostar train started non-passenger operation for driver training, signal testing, gauge clearance, platform staff training and validating on-board passenger information. Other technical on-board and track tests also took place. The trains are part of the £5.5 billion Thameslink improvement programme. The first 377 (a unit borrowed from Southern) came into service on 19 March 2009. All 23 of the units are now in service.

In 2008, First Capital Connect opened three new training facilities. The old Red Star parcels area in Bedford station was re-developed by Martin Gregory, IS Retail Manager and Richard Farish, Compliance Manager as part of their Leadership Horizons project, In Kentish Town, a derelict station building was converted into new training rooms to deliver induction, customer service and revenue protection training to new recruits. It will also offer management development programmes and safety specific training to First Capital Connect's 2,150 staff. The centre will be able to run in-house BTEC & NVQ programmes.

In Hornsey, Sir Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive of FirstGroup officially opened the Performance and Training Academy, and Simulator Centre. First Capital Connect invested £1.2m in the Academy that will be used to teach the new drivers required for the Thameslink Programme and help support the company's existing team of approximately 700 drivers. The Simulator Centre includes a 319 train simulator replicating the train on the Bedford to Brighton route, and the second, a 365 train simulator as seen on the Great Northern route.

Current routes[]

File:319369 319368 A St Albans.JPG

Class 319/3 Nos. 319369 and 319368 at St Albans City station.

File:319363 TSO Internal.JPG

The refreshed interior of a Class 319/3.

The current routes operated by First Capital Connect off-peak Monday to Friday are:

Great Northern[]

From King's Cross[]

  • London King's Cross to Peterborough – 2 tph (one Semi-Fast, One Stopping)
  • London King's Cross to Cambridge (Non Stop) – 2 tph (One extended to King's Lynn)
  • London King's Cross to Cambridge – 2 tph (one Semi-Fast, One Stopping)

From Moorgate[]

File:313059 D Welwyn Garden City.JPG

Class 313 No. 313059 at Welwyn Garden City.

File:313044 M Refreshed Interior.JPG

The refreshed interior of a Class 313.

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

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


File:317342 AND 317340 Peterborough.JPG

Nos. 317342 and 317340 at Peterborough.

File:365501 B Peterborough.JPG

No. 365501 at Peterborough.

  • Sevenoaks to Kentish Town (off-peak) or Bedford (peak only)– 2 trains per hour (tph) (jointly operated with Southeastern)
  • Bedford to Brighton– 4 tph (Two Semi-Fast, Two Stopping)
  • Luton to Wimbledon– 2 tph
  • St Albans to Sutton– 2 tph

Giving a frequency of 10 tph between London Blackfriars and St Pancras Domestic. During the peaks this increases.

FCC has two control centres (or 'Service Delivery Centres' aka SDC) for the Thameslink route. Trains between Bedford & London Blackfriars are controlled by the control centre at West Hampstead (based within the power signal box). FCC trains between Blackfriars & Brighton, Wimbledon & Sutton are controlled by the control centre at Croydon, which is also home to other southern region 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.[7]

Official figures released by the ORR (Office for Rail Regulation) for the fourth quarter of the financial year 2009-10 were 87.4% PPM, 2% down on last year.[8]

The Moving Annual Average (MAA) has now slipped to 89.5% - down from 89.9% last quarter.[8] PPM is often measured in this way as the year progresses to account for seasonality when reviewing trends.

Major service disruptions[]

In November 2009, following a pay dispute with driving staff, First Capital Connect introduced a revised timetable for its Thameslink route: this resulted in a drastically reduced service, and an increase in short-notice delays, alterations and cancellations.

The disruptions were triggered by First Capital Connect 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 were unable to provide enough drivers to maintain their standard Thameslink service.[9] Disruption continued into January 2010 as a result of heavy snow in the south east of England; although snow was not the only problem, significant snow fall ended on 6 January yet FCC continued to run emergency timetables through to 11 January.[10]

Trains returned to the normal timetables from Monday 18 January,[11] but delays and cancellations are still common as a result of signalling problems on the route. It was revealed that First Capital Connect achieved 60% in their punctuality during the first half of January on the Thameslink route. First Capital Connect have since offered improved discount and refund packages for customers affected by the disruption.[12]


Angry commuters started a petition on the Prime Minister's website to end First Capital Connect's franchise during 2009.[13] Other people have asked for a full enquiry into the service, 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 that if improvements were not made the company could be stripped of its franchise.[14][15]

In its Autumn 2009 National Passenger Survey, Passenger Focus stated FCC had the lowest overall satisfaction rating of any UK train operator, at 75%.[16]


Template:Ref improve section First Capital Connect received much criticism posted onto its Facebook Page.[17] Originally passengers were allowed to go on there and inform the company of any problems they had faced, with the result being FCC would look into it. However, after much repeated criticism of the company, they removed the ability for people to post anything at all onto the page. Since then it has taken another turn for the worse with all posts being completely removed and the page being wiped by the company. Many users have turned to the alternative "I hate First Capital Connect" page to vent their frustrations on both the company and its actions on its own Facebook page.


First Capital Connect has been criticised for running some of the country's most over-crowded trains; the 7.15am service from Cambridge to King's Cross frequently has 76 people standing for every 100 seated.[18] This situation is accepted 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".[19] From 27 May 2009 FCC introduced extra carriages which meant that this service became a 12-car train rather than an 8-car.

Fare rises[]

Since taking over the franchise, First Capital Connect have also faced criticism in a number of areas for apparently putting profits ahead of passengers. Regulated fares have continued to rise at above inflation. In January 2007, regulated fares increased by an average of 3.5% and unregulated fares by 4.3%.[20] In January 2008 both regulated and unregulated fares went up by an average of 4.8%.[21] And most recently, in January 2009, fares rose by an average of 6% for regulated fares, and 9% for unregulated fares.[22]

Like First Great Western services from Paddington, First Capital Connect introduced in mid 2006 peak time evening tickets for northbound travel out of London. Previously passengers who purchased an off-peak travel card were able to travel on any train after the morning peak had finished at 09.30. Now passengers can no longer use an off-peak ticket for trains leaving London stations between 16.30 and 19.01. Passengers who want to use these peak service trains will need to pay an additional charge to travel. The evening peak does not affect southbound travel. This was introduced due to severe peak overcrowding.[23] A full review of Evening Peak Restrictions is planned when First Capital Connect receives all of its additional rolling stock.[citation needed]

Students at some sixth-form colleges were hit by price increases of over £300 per annum, when First Capital Connect replaced a discount scheme introduced by previous franchise holders WAGN and Thameslink, with its own 'Student Connect'[24] 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.[25]


As well the increase in charges for rail travel, passengers are facing an increase in charges in several other areas. Car parking charges, which are not regulated by the passenger watchdog, have seen rises significantly above the rate of inflation for the past few years. St Albans city station has seen a rise in the daily parking charge from £4.20 in 2007 to £6.00 in 2009.[citation needed]

At a number of stations, First Capital Connect has replaced free to use cash machines, with machines that charge for withdrawals.[26]

Upon taking over the free shuttle bus service from Luton Airport Parkway station to London Luton Airport, First Capital Connect introduced a charge.[citation needed]


In September 2010, First Capital Connect admitted in an email that staff, despite being trained in first aid, 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 could not help. [27]

In October 2010, angry 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. [28]

Rolling stock[]

Current fleet[]

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 electric multiple unit 75 120 41 Inner suburban Great Northern
(Moorgate Branch, Hertford Loop)
Class 317 100px electric multiple unit 100 160 12 Fast & Semi Fast Great Northern London to Peterborough & King's Lynn via Cambridge 1981–1982
Class 319 100px electric multiple unit 100 160 86[29] Thameslink
(Brighton - Bedford, Sutton - Luton and Kentish Town - Sevenoaks
Class 321 100px electric multiple unit 100 161 6 Fast & Semi Fast Great Northern London to Peterborough & Cambridge 1989–1990
Class 365 100px electric multiple unit 100 160 40 Fast & Semi Fast Great Northern London to Peterborough & King's Lynn via Cambridge 1994–1995
Class 377/5 Electrostar 100px electric multiple unit 100 160 23 Thameslink
(Brighton - Bedford
and peak services: Bedford - Ashford International/Gillingham)

Subleased from Southern

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, operated as either four or eight car trains.

In addition to its EMU fleet FCC owns the sole surviving mainline-registered Class 03, 03179 Clive.

Additional Rolling Stock[]

File:V F CC 321404 A Hornsey TMD.JPG

Refreshed Class 321 No. 321404 is seen at Hornsey TMD.

File:V F CC 321404 TSO Internal.JPG

The refreshed Standard Class interior aboard a Class 321 EMU.

An additional four Class 319 trains were transferred from Southern in March 2009 to expand capacity on the Thameslink route, leaving FCC with all 86 of the 319s.[citation needed] The DfT also ordered 23 new dual voltage Class 377 units for Southern, which entered service in 2010 and will be used by FCC until the new Thameslink rolling stock is introduced, to further enhance capacity on the Thameslink services.[30] FCC have also gained thirteen Class 321 units: 321401-406 in May 2009 and 321407-410 later on in 2009, with 321418-420 arriving in 2010. These units will enhance the capacity on the Peterborough - London King's Cross services, thus allowing more Class 365 units to be available for the King's Lynn - Cambridge - London King's Cross services. Three Class 313 units from London Overground will move to the Great Northern route for Inner Suburban services from London King's Cross/Moorgate - Welwyn Garden City/Hertford North/Letchworth Garden City once all of London Overground's new 378s are delivered.

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 as well as the Great Northern's routes older stock. 1300 dual voltage EMU vehicles are planned, which are likely to be delivered in fixed formations operating in either 160m or 240m lengths. The new bid for trains is done on 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 8 car train and 240m a 12 car train. The new stock is due to enter service from late 2011,[31] with the first being delivered for testing in spring 2011.[32]

All of the Class 377/5 Electrostars used on the Thameslink route now received have full 'First Urban' branding. A full internal refurbishment and deep clean has also successfully been completed on some of the class 321s.[33]


800px 800px


Under privatisation, Thameslink went about refurbishing its units. The Class 319/1s were rebuilt by Railcare Wolverton into the Class 319/3s, which included removing First Class accommodation. These units are used on Thameslink CityMetro services from Luton/St Albans to Wimbledon around the Sutton loop. These units are numbered 319361-319386.

The Class 319/0s it owned were rebuilt into Class 319/4s (with First Class accommodation added) for dedicated use on Thameslink Cityflier services from Bedford to Brighton, and were subsequently renumbered 319421-319460. Since then the fleet had undergone a minor refurbishment and Thameslink also initiated a programme of technical improvements. FCC has continued the refurbishment initiated by Thameslink, although it has altered the cosmetic features to its specifications.

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 onboard lavatories have been repainted. All ex-WAGN trains have now been done, and the Thameslink fleet is nearing completion.


All stations in one day[]

On 25 September 2008 a team of four set out to visit all 105 First Capital Connect railway stations in less than 24 hours for charity.[34]

Ben Huxley (Duty Leader), Lucy Dawson (Sales Assistant), Steve Everett (Revenue Control Officer), and Matt Streeton (Train Running Controller) started their journey on 25 September 2008 at Letchworth Garden City boarding the 06.16 service via Cambridge to King's Lynn. They then headed across to Peterborough then to London King's Cross via Finsbury Park. The team tackled the Thameslink (TL) route starting at St Pancras International via the Wimbledon Loop, down to Brighton and up to Bedford, including services around the Wimbledon Loop in South London. The team then went to Moorgate (which has since closed to Thameslink traffic but still part of the Northern City Line served by First Capital Connect), before arriving back at Letchworth Garden City some 16 hours and 5 minutes later at 22.21 having completed the task.

They travelled through seven counties and covered Template:Convert/mi.

See also[]



  1. FCC. We're Improving.
  2. RailStaff (2006-04-06). First Capital Connect links London. Retrieved on 2006-04-10.
  3. DfT (2005-12-13). DfT announces winner of Greater Western and Thameslink/GN franchises. Retrieved on 2007-07-24.
  4. Network Rail (2006-10-18). THE £3.5BN THAMESLINK PROJECT CLEARS MAJOR HURDLE. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved on 2006-11-10.
  5. First Capital Connect. Cambridge Capacity Study.
  6. First Capital Connect. Changes to Capacity Study Timetable Following Consultation (PDF).
  7. Performance breaks all records. First Capital Connect News. Retrieved on 2009-02-16.[dead link]
  8. Template:Cite news
  9. Template:Cite news
  10. Template:Cite news
  11. Disruption FAQ. First Capital Connect (2009-01-24). Retrieved on 2010-01-24.[dead link]
  12. Template:Cite news
  13. Template:Cite news
  14. Adonis warns Thameslink rail operator. Financial Times (2009-01-21). Retrieved on 2010-01-24.
  15. National Passenger Survey Autumn 2009. Passenger Focus (2010-02-04). Retrieved on 2010-05-13.
  17. Template:Cite news
  18. Overcrowded trains are 'shaming Britain'. Evening Standard (2007-03-26). Retrieved on 2009-02-23.
  19. Template:Cite news
  20. Template:Cite news
  21. Template:Cite news
  22. Off Peak Ticket Restrictions. First Capital Connect. Retrieved on 2010-03-14.
  23. FCC Student Connect website
  24. Cambridge News report on Student Connect
  25. Meet the Directors
  28. First Capital Connect (2009-03-05). Rail industry unites to beat delivery failures at train manufacturer. Retrieved on 2009-03-23.[dead link]
  29. Rolling Stock Plan - Indicative Number of Additional Vehicles required by English TOCs by 2014
  31. Department for Transport (2008-04-09). 14,500 extra seats for Thameslink passengers. Archived from the original on 29 April 2008. Retrieved on 2008-04-23.
  32. Today's Railways issue 87
  33. Team visit every First Capital Connect (calling) station in one day). First Capital Connect (25 September 2008).

External links[]

Template:Commons category

Preceded by
Thameslink franchise
Operator of Thameslink/Great Northern franchise
2006 — 2014
Preceded by
West Anglia Great Northern franchise

Template:Use dmy dates

de:First Capital Connect fr:First Capital Connect nl:First Capital Connect ja:ファースト・キャピタル・コネクト no:First Capital Connect pl:First Capital Connect simple:First Capital Connect