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Bill could force TOCs to spend NR delay payments on improvements

Legislation requiring train operating companies (TOCs) to spend compensation payments from Network Rail for delays on improvement projects is currently going through the House of Commons.

Joan Ryan, Labour MP for Enfield North, who led the group of 12 MPs presenting the Improvement of Rail Passenger Services (Use of Disruption Payments) Bill, said that it was unfair that TOCs profit from schedule 8 disruption payments from Network Rail for maintenance failures which lead to delays.

Of the £575m in schedule 8 payments made between 2010 and 2015, only £73m was spent on compensation for passengers. Although this is more than double the amount before 2010, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) recently criticised the lack of information on how to claim compensation in response to a Which? campaign. Many of the payments were funded by taxpayers’ contributions to Network Rail.

Ryan said: “The payments received from Network Rail bear no relation whatever to the passenger compensation schemes between the train operators and their customers. Indeed, only a fraction of what train operators receive in payments from Network Rail is ever passed on to commuters whose journeys have been disrupted. Passengers are certainly not helped to claim what they are owed for delays, given that train operators make it so difficult for them to access compensation.

“It is scandalous that a system can be designed in such a way that the very people using the rail network and who are most affected by the poor standard of service on offer—tax-paying commuters—can end up contributing to train operators’ profits out of their own misery! How can this be right? Where is the accountability to the fare-paying, taxpaying public for how this system operates and where this money goes?”

In Network Rail’s latest figures, the public performance measure (PPM) of British railways was at 90.5%, compared to 91.2% at the same time last year, and Network Rail was responsible for roughly 60% of delays.

Virgin is the only TOC to currently offer compensation in the form of money, not vouchers, as TOCs are now obliged to do under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The proposed Bill will empower the ORR to make TOCs disclose any profit from schedule 8 payments and ensure that it is spent on profits to improve passenger experience, including retaining ticket office staff, facilitating easier access to station platforms and trains, free wi-fi, or providing a guarantee that trains will not miss out stops.

Ryan cited a £4m rail reparation fund, created last year by the ORR and Network Rail to benefit passengers affected by delays on Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Southern routes, which was spent on increasing station and maintenance staff and introducing incident management software.

The Bill, introduced yesterday under the Ten Minute Rule, will next be read in the House of Commons on 22 April.

(Image c. Johnny Green from PA Images)


Lutz   15/04/2016 at 21:51

Typical Public Sector workers; have no idea of what is involved in running a business, and fail to grasp that businesses incur costs because of NR's failures. All they want is to have the TOCs even further out of pocket.

John Rutherford   18/04/2016 at 23:05

For God's sake stop playing around with the deckchairs and start concentrating on saving the ship!

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