Getting there

FGW strolling through the grassIt’s taken a little time for our local press to accurately report on the Department for Transport’s imposition of penalties on First Great Western for failing to comply with the standards of service required for their franchise. The official announcement is quite robust.

First Great Western is being issued with a Remedial Plan Notice for exceeding the threshold on cancellations in the second half of last year….

The company is also being issued with a Breach Notice for misreporting its cancellations. This stipulates the steps First Great Western must take to rectify the problem.

In addition a £29m package of passenger benefits, fully funded by First Great Western, has been agreed….

Failure to deliver these new commitments would be a default of the franchise agreement which could lead to the Government terminating First Great Western’s franchise.

Reading the Adver’s first attempt at reporting this, at 8.50 this morning, you’d think that FGW had just chosen to splurge £29M on extra trains entirely of their own volition.

SWINDON train company First Great Western will invest £29m to improve services, it has emerged today. First will address poor performance in relation to cancellations and delays. It acknowledges its service has fallen short of its own standards and the expectations of passengers. The company says it is committed to improving performance and will take the necessary action to ensure cancellations and delays are minimised.

In the past year the company has come under fire from passenger groups and regulators for the service they provide.

A slight hint of criticism, but nothing more. The second report, twelve hours later, gets it right.

SWINDON train company First Great Western has been forced to make £29m worth of improvements. First Great Western (FGW) says it will now take action to ensure cancellations and delays are lowered for customers.

The company was ordered to make the changes by the Department for Transport.

The Beeb have done no better, hinting at nothing more than ‘discussions with the DfT’ as the prompt for this expenditure. All led astray by the railway company perhaps? Hardly. Their press release is quite clear about why they are spending the money.

The £29m plan has been put together to address poor performance, particularly in relation to cancellations and the subsequent contravention of our Franchise Agreement.

Who needs spin-doctors with reporting like this? The Beeb also give space to the group running a campaign of fares evasion.

But this is the result of passenger power, that independent groups like us and our fare strike have been responsible in a great part for these things happening, by bringing them to the attention of the government and making First lose face.

Really? I’m struggling to see anything more than penalty clauses in a contract being applied. This would have happened (and indeed has happened to other rail companies in the past) regardless of the actions of a small band of fares-dodgers.