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because it is about the personal stories, really: the people that missed job interviews in this climate because our trains didn’t run on time, missing funerals, things like that, how do you ever compensate for that?’ Lawson immediately comes across as down-to-earth

and approachable. Staff seem to see him as accessible and, ultimately, as ‘one of them’. His background as an engineer may give him a useful slant on the task ahead. ‘It’s a useful perspective having come through the engineering side, ‘ says Lawson, ‘but it’s not unique.’ The rest of the remedial package is going towards

improving the customer information systems and train reliability. Customer-facing staff will have Blackberrys and new displays will be far faster to update when a timetable has to be re-done during disruption. The upgrade will be complete by the end of the year. Even though the drivers dispute has now been resolved,

is there a risk the situation could arise again? There will always be some rest day working, says

which eventually led to a job at Bombardier’s Australian plant. Lawson was offered the role of vice president of engineering for Bombardier’s service division in Derby and the opportunity was too good to pass up, so he relocated here with his family in 2003. Given the hasty departure of two of his predecessors

from FCC’s top job, isn’t his position a poisoned chalice? ‘No, not really. They certainly had their challenges at

the time and I knew what they were when I took it. There was a bit of soul-searching at the time, but if you look at the performance that we had had for four and a half years, while there’s always room for improvement, it had been good and it was really about putting stability back into the position. It’s been about taking the things we could do on good days and bottling that and make it happen every day. I didn’t see it as a poisoned chalice, I thought it was do- able. I’ve had absolute support from FirstGroup, they don’t want me to fail, so there’s been no lack of support there. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done because performance has not just bounced back, it’s as good as it’s ever been and strengthening.’ Things are looking to be back to normal on Thameslink.

The PPM for March for Thamelink was 91.9 per cent, beating the target 90.3 per cent. The company agreed to invest in a £10m ‘remedial’ package to help improve its performance and compensate passengers for the substandard service levels they had had to put up with. Around £2.5m of the package was in the form of compensation to passengers. The original figure was increased when customers complained that it wasn’t enough – in going the extra mile with things like this, Lawson hopes to regain the trust of his customers. ‘We’re obsessive now about customer feedback and

getting things right, hence asking about your journey this morning,’ says Lawson, referring to the fact that I had travelled to London from Cambridge on an FCC Great Northern service to do the interview. ‘We want to know whether there’s anything we can improve. When you go out to passengers and listen to the personal stories, it’s difficult for everyone to be happy with the level of compensation,

PAGE 20 JUNE 2010

Lawson. But the situation last year was compounded by the fact that many of the drivers were busy being trained up to drive the new rolling stock. ‘We’re recruiting 29 drivers additionally, to reduce dependence on rest day working. It will get better as the training goes through. By October this year, we’ll have enough drivers to run the routes even without rest day working. We’re always working on the relationships with the trade unions to make sure that sort of situation doesn’t arise again.’ The Brighton Line Commuters group still has concerns

about the cramped conditions on the Class 319s, an absence of heating in the winter and first class carriages being hard to find, particularly for passengers with disabilities. Lawson says that heater replacement had to be put on

hold while the company was waiting for the late 377s to be delivered and was unable to take its existing rolling stock out of service for maintenance. ‘While we were doing the safety critical maintenance, the heaters fell off the bottom of the list. Then the manufacturers of the heaters went out of business, so we had to source an alternative. So there’s a programme for deferred maintenance now, and the heaters form a big part of that. I can only apologise to customers that there weren’t heaters through a very cold winter. ‘Lack of first class doesn’t usually happen, but we’re

running services shortformed rather than cancelling. We’ve had problems sometimes with the first class being at the wrong end. We’re investing in customer information systems to help people pinpoint first class carriages.’ The Thameslink Programme is, of course, one of the

projects that could be hit by cutbacks as the new government tries to slash the deficit, but nothing had been announced as Rail Professional went to press. The scheme will add capacity to what had become a very overcrowded line running from Brighton to Bedford. Services are to increase by up to 300 per cent, with 24 trains per hour in the peak. Blackfriars, Farringdon and London Bridge stations are being improved and other existing destinations will be linked to the Thameslink, so that more direct services through the capital will be possible. The Thameslink Programme began in 2007 and will finish in 2016. 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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