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Rail Professional interview: Neal Lawson

Performance has not just bounced back, it’s as good as it’s ever been and strengthening

The new MD of First Capital Connect tells Katie Silvester how the company has progressed since the disastrous few months on Thameslink during the autumn and winter



PAGE 18 JUNE 2010

ix months ago, things weren’t looking good for First Capital Connect. A series of problems on the Thameslink route had led then transport secretary Lord Andrew Adonis to threaten to end the franchise early if standards did not

improve. A Facebook group sprang up to campaign for just that. A refusal on the part of drivers to do overtime during salary negotiations had left FCC short staffed, causing services to be cancelled. On top of that, delayed delivery of new Class 377s from Bombardier meant that much of the existing rolling stock was unable to be properly serviced before the start of the winter, causing failures during the severe winter weather as engines iced over. On the staffing side, a high turnover of managing directors had left employees feeling a little shaky. First

Elaine Holt left suddenly a year ago, with Jim Morgan taking over as interim MD. Morgan left almost as suddenly, leaving FirstGroup rail boss Mary Grant personally in charge for a few months until head of engineering Neal Lawson stepped up to the plate. But things have started to turn around. Lawson says

he’s planning to stay for the duration of the franchise, punctuality scores are easily hitting their targets and the rolling stock has finally arrived. Lawson jokes that his appointment was auspicious – he took the helm on 18 January, the day the drivers went back to work. It also happened to be just three days after the long-awaited Class 377s were delivered by Bombardier. A native of Australia, Lawson has worked for

the railways ever since he left school, except for a brief stint working in aerospace. He studied rolling stock engineering as a cadet for Queensland Railway, Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40
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