First Capital Connect

I'm a fan of rail travel and as I write this I'm on a train to Hampshire to meet with local farmers and visit a recycling facility, agricultural college and community shop.

But if you've ever had the misfortune to rely on the Thameslink service between Brighton and London recently then you'll know why it's been dubbed the "misery line".

A lot of criticism has been directed at train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) who in November failed to resolve a dispute with drivers who refused to work on their rest days.  A reduced timetable was introduced and it caused enormous disruption for passengers.

The chaos continued into December when emergency timetabling was this time blamed on the snow.  And although "normal service" was declared on 18 January the cancellations, diversions and delays have continued, as many of my constituents have told me.

One Hassocks resident said it has been a "daily lottery" as to whether the train would run on time, if at all.  And when services have been delayed, scheduled stops at intermediate stations like Hassocks have been cancelled, leaving passengers stranded.

I'd like to hear from any of my constituents who have experienced problems like this.  It will strengthen my hand when I meet with the managing directors of FCC and its parent company First Group on Monday.  I'm also taking up the issue with Transport Secretary Lord Adonis who recently described the service as "shoddy" and "very substandard".

Nearly 5,000 people have signed a Downing Street petition calling on the Government to end the franchise agreement with FCC and more than 2,000 people have joined a Facebook campaign.

People rely on the trains to get to work and we won't get more people using them if the service is not up to scratch.  So it's important now that FCC provide some kind of guarantee that the service will improve, that the Government holds them to it and that the unions stick to their agreement on hours.  To coin a phrase, we can't go on like this!

Michelle Taylor