First Capital Connect - rail travel is just the ticket!


Part of First Group plc, a world leader in overground volume passenger transport, the First Capital Connect passenger rail franchise was a newly won addition. This was a large, London-centric passenger rail operation, running trains from Luton and Bedford in the north into London and through down to Brighton on the south coast (known popularly as the Thameslink network). Additionally, the “Great Northern” section carried passengers to and from Cambridge and Peterborough into King’s Cross London. A busy, vibrant and complex network for sure.

Recognising three core passenger segments – regular commuter, leisure traveller, and ad hoc business user – the marketing and communications efforts were focussed to ensure that these three groups were positively catered for and encouraged to use the train, with dedicated activity and focus for all three.

With the paint fresh on the re-branded franchise trains, all marketing and customer service collateral needed to be consistently branded and newly created in the style of First Capital Connect – and a new positioning was adopted for much of the promotional activity – with “FCC” being positioned as “fast, convenient and connected”. From an entirely new website, with e-commerce ticket purchase functionality, to all station and on-train marketing materials being enthusiastically refreshed, campaign activity was geared to driving new traffic (modal shift) and retaining existing commuters – all with a very determined focus on strong returns on marketing investment (ROI). With some fantastic London attractions, and other great destinations on the network, leisure campaigns were imaginative, prolific and effective in driving discretionary travellers onto the service.

The team worked hard to make the “FCC” franchise distinctive and helpful to its customers. Serving both London Luton and London Gatwick airports created the excellent business development opportunity to make FCC the onward travel provider of choice with some excellent partnership sales arrangements achieved with key airline operators.

One of the key challenges was to support our customers through a period of significant disruption caused by the necessary re-engineering of major station infrastructure. Known as the Thameslink Programme, this formed part of the necessary changes to support increased passenger capacity and to prepare the ground for the new Crossrail network. As well as platform lengthening (to accommodate up to 12 carriage trains), this programme included the entire “relocation” of one FCC station – Kings Cross Thameslink being closed - to relocate directly underneath the gleaming new St Pancras International – the exciting new gateway to Europe with Eurostar and High Speed 1. No mean feat to manage this disruption and retain the goodwill and patience of our passengers, but we did it openly and with real passion.