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13.09.16

DfT eyes ‘more generous’ compensation for Southern users

Rail minister Paul Maynard said he is “determined” to resolve the issues with Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR’s) beleaguered services alongside transport secretary Chris Grayling, and is expected to make a “timely announcement” on more generous compensation for affected passengers.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Maynard reiterated that he expects the “tempo of introduction” of new services on the operator’s Southern franchise to be maintained, and assured the matter should be resolved in “weeks, not months”.

“I acknowledge that some routes are still suffering badly, and my priority is making sure that those services are restored in a timely, sensible and lasting manner,” he continued.

“I also acknowledge that compensation is an important part of this picture, given the current cost of rail travel and the amount of disruption caused. In its current form, Delay Repay compensation continues to apply against the permanent standard timetable. It is important that all travellers are aware of that when assessing their eligibility to claim.

“The secretary of state and I are continuing to consider more generous compensation for passengers on this route, and we hope to make a timely announcement. I want to ensure that we focus on restoring normality to the timetable, and that has to be the most important task at hand.”

Chris Philip, MP for Croydon South, suggested that one of the routes taken to improve compensation is to offer season ticket holders a rebate of their ticket payment, for example of 10-20%, “in recognition that they have not received the service they have paid for”.

“There are numerous ways in which we are considering the potential for compensation. I will take that suggestion on board, and I hope to make further announcements in due course,” the minister said.

Maynard also attacked rail unions for piling on “unacceptable” disruptions on passenger services, referring to a long-running dispute between Southern and RMT that resulted in a series of strikes. This year alone, the union launched five strike actions on the troubled operator, the last of which took place last week.

He assured other speakers during yesterday’s Commons debate that the DfT is working on this “important issue on a regular basis”, and that it is “a matter of frequent conversation”.

“It has not been put on the back burner, and I hope he will be getting some helpful news relatively soon,” Maynard added.

Yesterday’s debate comes just a few days after the rail minister took to the Commons on 5 September to confirm that Southern had reinstated 119 services into the weekday timetable, meaning over a third of the 341 services cancelled on 11 July would be restored. It also follows Grayling’s offer of a £20m bailout fund to help the struggling operator.

‘Appalling’ lack of clarity

But despite the DfT’s commitment to rescue Southern, the department has been harshly criticised for what the Transport Committee perceives to be a grave “lack of transparency” that undermines “proper scrutiny” of its franchise agreement with the operator.

In a letter sent to Maynard before the bailout fund and restored services were announced, the committee’s chair, Louise Ellman MP, said she was “appalled” that transport senior officials couldn’t answer questions about GTR’s performance during their appearance at an evidence session.

Maynard appeared before the committee on 20 July, shortly after his appointment, and was unable to answer repeated questions from MPs about when the cancelled services would be restored.

The committee subsequently wrote to the DfT with questions about the decision by the department to revise GTR’s contractual benchmarks under a remedial plan introduced in February.

However, Ellman said the department’s response “was unacceptably opaque and failed to answer any of these questions adequately2. The DfT did not say whether GTR would be in breach or default of the contract without the revised benchmarks. It also said that it was too early to determine GTR’s performance against the new benchmarks, which Ellman said was “evasive and lacks credibility”.

She said the DfT should publish the dates on which the claims were made, the basis on which they were made, and when it expects to make a decision.

 

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Comments

Huguenot   13/09/2016 at 11:50

With all the emphasis on the trouble at Southern, let us not forget that Thameslink (also part of GTR) is still suffering weekend cancellations because weekend working by drivers is 'voluntary', and many can afford not to 'volunteer'.

Gabriel Oaks   13/09/2016 at 14:26

Interesting as I understand that the increase in Southern's DOO operation is a requirement of GTR's management contract with DfT. Network Rail's Thameslink project works at London Bridge would also appear to have a significant knock-on effect on Southern's services.

Martin Hogan   14/09/2016 at 06:40

I am still waiting for compensation from June!!! After submitting a complaint that their website was not able to accept my refund request, it took a month for them to get back to me asking me to use their website. I did this and three weeks ago I was told my claim was out of time. I copied them my first email, proving I had contacted them within days of the late train. Now they want me to submit ANOTHER web based claim, even though they admit I did submit on time. Surely this will also be rejected? I work away, so it will be another month before I have access to my old ticket stubs. Why can't they just pay up when they admit that they are wrong?

Phil   14/09/2016 at 08:17

I acknowledge that this is a frustrating time for 'Southern' passengers. It is infuriating that Government Secretary for State for Transport and his Rail Minister are 'Considering more generous Compensation'. I hope this consideration is for all rail users across the whole Rail network in the UK, and not as I suspect will perhaps be Government interference for 'The South'. If it is, such a decision should need challenging. Surely compensation levels, and reasons to receive it are an industry standard to work to, and what is in place at the moment is it! (Till the whole system is changed). It seems ironic that GTR is effectively a manager in their current contract / Franchise, so does this mean compensation actually comes from the tax payer anyway?

Jason   14/09/2016 at 10:21

Will this proposed "generous" compensation be back dated to cover the appalling service we've had to suffer so far? Case in point my delay repay compensation is usually between £3 and £6, so far I have amassed over £130 in vouchers!

Kevinr   14/09/2016 at 12:58

1) Compensation should not differ between franchise 2) Southern should re-invoice RMT.

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