Train operator First Capital Connect has just been fined £75,000 by a UK judge regarding an incident in which up to 700 passengers were stuck for over 3 hours on a train, partially in a tunnel, with no toilets, no ventilation and minimal lighting.
To a conglomerate such as First, which reported over £200m profits in 2012, this has to be a drop in the ocean, and is an absolutely derisory amount compared to the – just over £100 per stranded passenger.
It also begs the question about who is going to pay for this. First Group shareholders? Unlikely. It feels more likely to come out of our pockets, as fare increases, reduced franchise payments to the Treasury, or increased subsidy from the DfT.
We can’t change the “token” fine imposed by the judge – it should probably have had an extra couple of zeros on the end, really – but what might be reasonable is an assurance from the First Capital Connect MD David Statham or Group CEO Tim O’Toole that this fine will ring-fenced, such that it is paid entirely out of group surplus, and must not be allowed to impact the travelling public at large.
Better still, maybe they could pay it out of their no doubt generous bonuses, given the buck stops with them?
I’m also wondering how much has actually been learned from this incident, given the “analysis paralysis” that seems to affect rail operating incidents at the moment?