‘PASSENGERS BEING ROUTINELY FAILED TWICE-OVER – DELAYED TRAINS AND PITIFUL COMPENSATION’
Caroline Lucas MP held talks with the Rail Minister and train bosses this week, calling for urgent improvements to services. She called for the summit last month amid further fare hikes and continued disruptions for passengers across the South East.
Passengers were being routinely failed twice-over she said – through delayed trains and pitiful, convoluted compensation systems.
Rail bosses have pledged more drivers, replacing older trains, upgrading infrastructure at 38 key junctions, and improved communications
They also pledged to look again at compensation arrangements, following a Rail Summit held in Parliament today.
The Brighton Pavilion MP presented passengers’ concerns, pressing for service improvements and a renegotiated compensation system.
She expressed concern at the small sums of compensation being paid out to passengers.
According to the TSSA, last year operators pocketed £167m from Network Rail* for delays, passing on a mere £22m to passengers.
Compensation is now payable where a train is more than 30 minutes late.
But complex processes and lack of information mean just a tiny proportion of people are claiming money back.
A 2013 Passenger Focus survey found that just 12 per cent of those eligible for compensation claimed it.
Caroline also highlighted repeat delays: a train, she noted, could be routinely delayed by 25 minutes, and passengers wouldn’t see a penny – rail companies must be made to pay out for repeat disruption, she said.
Caroline added: “It’s time rail bosses were held responsible for the services we depend on. Passengers are being routinely failed and we need urgent improvements to ensure smoother-running railways.
“The compensation systems are woefully inadequate and needlessly complex. When delays and cancellations do happen, passengers must be swiftly and fully compensated. That isn’t happening – we need to simplify the system and hold operators to account to ensure a significant proportion of those funds are passed on to passengers.”
In particular, Caroline called on rail bosses to consider greater compensation during periods of ongoing disruption, such as that being experienced as a result of developments at London Bridge, as well as much better communication to passengers about their rights to compensation.
She said: “The extension of so-called ‘enhanced compensation’ to Southern trains is welcome, but passengers should be eligible for much shorter periods of delays if they are of a repeated nature. Train operators must also be obliged to make announcements both on the train and at the station about passengers’ rights, and make it far easier to claim.”
During the meeting, attended by the Rail Minister Claire Perry, rail bosses acknowledged that passengers’ “patience was wearing thin”, and pledged to improve services by introducing a new plan, which includes recruiting more drivers, replacing older trains, upgrading infrastructure at 38 key junctions, and better communications.
Caroline said: “Today, Network Rail and the rail companies were asked to explain themselves – it’s crucial they’re held to account. We’ve taken a solid step forward, but we need to see much greater action taken to improve the situation, and I’ll be following it up very closely.”
Caroline’s Railways Bill receives its Second Reading in Parliament on 27 February.
Early in January, amid further fare hikes and continued disruptions for passengers across the South East, Caroline called for the meeting between MPs and rail bosses and pressed Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, to do more to hold the companies to account by ensuring the roundtable meeting took place.
*Currently, where Network Rail is found to be at fault for delays, it is required to pay compensation to train operating companies (TOCs) – but the TOCs are under no obligation to hand any of that on to customers. It is the Secretary of State’s responsibility to make TOCs pay up.
In light of that, Caroline has tabled a Parliamentary Question requesting an initial response from the Secretary of State: To ask the SoS for Transport, if he will take steps to ensure that where Network Rail pay compensation to a Train Operating Company, there is a duty on the TOC to pass on a proportion of that compensation to all affected passengers and to pro-actively inform passengers of this automatic entitlement and if he will make a statement.
Fares are increasing far faster than wages. Regulated ticket prices have risen by over 20 per cent under the Coalition Government. Average wages are expected to have risen by just 6.9 per cent. For local and national figures and policy clarification, see this briefing, released by the Campaign for Better Transport