First Capital Connected – ask and you shall receive!

First Capital Connected - ask and you shall receive!

I admit that I can get quite frustrated with First Capital Connect, the operator of the Thameslink service I commute on everyday. My particular bugbear is the trains – clearly not designed for the commuter traffic they are under every day.

As frustrated as I am with the trains, I actually think the FCC comms chaps are a decent bunch and this was re-affirmed today as I got a great response to a twitter query I had about customer involvement in train design. For those that might be interested here it is below (with a picture of a mock up of the train above), and a big thanks to Lee for the comprehensive response.

“Hi Alex,

I understand you’ve been speaking with us regarding the new rolling stock – and the customer input that has gone in to the design. Your query has been passed to me as I’m representing ‘the customer’ in all of the design reviews and I’ve also been responsible for incorporating customer feedback in to the design.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the train design is now *virtually* complete. We have a full scale mock-up of the design in Kassel Germany – and we also have a 2 car pre-series vehicle in Wildenrath, Germany. The first train is due to enter service in 2016 – so we’re working to some very tight timescales now!

Customer feedback has been sought from a very early stage in the process. We worked with Passenger Focus a number of years back and we held several ‘focus groups’ so that we could get real feedback form a variety of different people who use our trains. This included peak, off peak, airport, regular and irregular travellers. We also included a large number of people with different disabilities to ensure that the trains exceeded the requirements set down in various bits of legislation.

Train design is highly regulated for safety reasons, but where decisions can be made, several factors were considered. Wherever possible, the leading factor in any design feature was the customer.

More recently, we took a number of stakeholders out to Germany to look at the mock-up. We got a lot of feedback – some of which we have been able to incorporate (with agreement from the Department for Transport.) The stakeholder visit included representatives from The Brighton Line Commuters Association, Hassocks Rail Group, East Surrey Transport Group, Association of Public Transport Users, Bedford Commuters’ Association, Hitchin Rail User Group, London TravelWatch, Passenger Focus, Rail Future (Anglia branch) Rail Future, (London branch), Cyclists’ Touring Club and also a Disability representative from the Department for Transport.

The train needs to meet the needs of a variety of customers with differing needs – it’s also fair to say that we’re unique in that we don’t terminate in London. This means that the train needs to be suitable as a very high frequency ‘metro’ style train within London – as well as meeting the needs of customers on much longer distance routes to Brighton, Bedford Cambridge and Peterborough. We also have 2 large airports on the route – so need plenty of space for luggage. We’ve done our best to incorporate all of these factors. We’ve also bought in designated wheelchair areas, accessible toilets, modern passenger information systems and a number of other features.

Now that the Department for Transport have signed the contract with Siemens, we are able to discuss and publicise some more of the details. Keep an eye out for further updates from us in due course.”

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