HS2

23.10.18

May timetables: DfT official tried to keep GTR compensation pay-outs under wraps

A government official tried to keep a rail compensation scheme “low key” and hidden from the media, an FOI request has revealed.

Liberal Democrat candidate for St Albans Daisy Cooper submitted the FOI request into the correspondence between Govia Thameslink (GTR) and the DfT, revealing that the DfT wanted the train operator to keep the scheme out of the media spotlight.

In an email dated 5 July, a DfT official wrote to Tim Rees, a senior civil servant in the same department, plus others which said that GTR had published its announcement on compensation the previous night.

The official’s email said: “My advice would be to keep this low key and targeted at passengers and stakeholders, not media.”

Cooper, who is head of the St Albans Commuter and Passenger group, told the Financial Times that the DfT’s advice was “troubling.”

She said: “Lots of passengers have struggled, and continue to struggle, to actually find out details of the scheme,” she said. “The compensation scheme should have been more widely promoted.”

Following a big timetable overhaul launched in May, up to 470 trains failed to run on the GTR network, forcing the company to use emergency timetables.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers travelling through central London faced severe disruption for several weeks, and a few weeks later the chief executive of GTR resigned.

Chris Grayling, speaking to the transport select committee about the timetable chaos, said the compensation scheme created was “a quicker and more straightforward way of making sure they received that compensation now as opposed to later.”

Grayling said he had “no idea why that suggestion was made.”

An ORR report in the May timetable chaos was published last month, blasting the transport secretary, Network Rail and the DfT’s handling of the crisis and claiming that “no one took charge.”

Following the timetable failures, Grayling ordered a compensation be set up by various rail firms involved in order to compensate passengers for the massively disrupted services.

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Image credit - Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/PA Image

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