Convenient & connected
FirstGroup plc is the world’s leading transport company and the UK’s largest rail operator
With annualised revenues of over £5 billion a year, the Group employs over 137,000 staff throughout the UK and North America and transports more than 2.5 billion passengers a year. It is both Britain’s largest bus and rail operator and in the rail arena it is the only operator to run every type of over ground rail service in the UK, from high speed inter-city trains and overnight sleepers to local branch lines,regional and commuter services and open access, light rail and freight operations.
First Rail operating companies provide services across the UK, and it continuously develops proposals for new and renewed passenger rail franchises. The company’s portfolio is balanced between inter-city, London commuter and regional railways, operating under the names of First Great Western, First ScotRail, First TransPennine Express, Hull Trains, First GBRf and First Capital Connect.
FirstGroup won the franchise to run the Great Northern and Thameslink franchise from 1 April 2006. The new company, called First Capital Connect, now runs trains between London, Brighton, Bedford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn.
To set out its commitment to customers and share some of its plans for the future, the company published a Passenger’s Charter. The fundamental promise First Capital Connect makes to its customers is to get the basics right – providing a train service that is punctual and reliable, clean and safe.
This means that the company is dedicated to continuously improving its passenger’s journey experience. These plans centre on improving many aspects of the business such as station upgrades and better car park facilities. On-train developments include interior refurbishment, improved train cleanliness, technical enhancements to improve reliability and finally there is a focus on upgrading security.
The Passenger’s Charter is a detailed document that establishes First Capital Connect’s ambitions and aims for the future of its services. Available to download from its website, www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk, the Charter is also a useful document for passengers who require basic information on planning a journey, buying a ticket, station information such as automatic ticket gates, detailed train information, advice on applying for a refund or compensation and finally, customer feedback. This last point is very important to the company as it actively seeks the views of its customers to help plan improvements to its service.
In addition to making its service better for customers, First Capital Connect is also committed to the wider environmental aspects of the business. It is taking steps to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, make the best use of its resources and reduce waste.
Trains produce lower emissions per journey than most other transport modes and electric trains (used by First Capital Connect) produce lower emissions per journey than diesel trains. A properly managed railway can make a positive contribution to the environmental health of the nation.
Last year, First Capital Connect alone had 91.8 million passenger journeys, which has reduced UK CO2 emissions by 233.034 thousand tonnes – assuming all these journeys were made by car – which is enough to fill 233,000 hot air balloons.
First Capital Connect was also the first train operator to be awarded the prestigious ISO 14001 environmental accreditation for the entire company. Recognised as the cornerstone of the international standards on environmental management, ISO 14001 provides a control framework and is awarded to companies that implement an effective Environmental Management System (EMS) to improve environmental performance.
Chief executive of FirstGroup, Moir Lockhead, stressed that everyone has a responsibility to leave the planet in as good a shape as is possible for future generations: “At FirstGroup we see ourselves as part of the solution to the climate change problem. By providing safe, reliable and cost effective alternatives to the car, we hope to encourage even more people to travel on our buses and trains.
“At First we also recognise that we have a duty to reduce our carbon emissions. Last year we unveiled our Climate Change Strategy, setting ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions in our bus division by 25 per cent and in our rail division by 20 per cent both by 2020.”
In order to meet the targets First will apply a range of measures. The company will look at the following key elements throughout its bus and train operations: Improving the fuel efficiency of existing vehicles, seeking to purchase higher efficiency vehicles, using alternative fuels, and creating operational improvements through driver training and in-cab technology.
First is also encouraging all its passengers and staff in Britain to think more about how they can make a difference individually in tackling the climate change problem. Through First’s websites and internal publications the Group is urging people to consider a greener lifestyle. This includes initiatives that encourage business and leisure travellers to travel to Gatwick and Luton airports by train, to reduce the carbon footprint of their journey. According to the FirstGroup and First Capital Connect, there are lots of reasons to take the train and it really doesn’t need to cost the earth.