Government says thousands of Southern passengers will get extra compensation – but fares to go up
More than 84,000 Southern Rail passengers will be paid one month’s compensation because of the “extraordinary” disruption they have suffered over the past few months, the Government has announced.
But Southern fares are due to rise by an average of 1.8 per cent next year, the rail operator said on Friday (December 2).
Passengers have faced heavily disrupted services on the operator for most of this year, due to what the Government described as “unacceptably poor” performance by Southern, Network Rail track failures, engineering works and industrial action by the RMT.
Season ticket holders will be able to claim a refund for the equivalent of four weeks’ travel, meaning an annual season ticket holder will be able to claim a refund against their 2016 ticket paid directly into their bank account.
The one-off compensation payment is in addition to the new Delay Repay 15 system which the Government also announced would come into force on December 11 on Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which include Southern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said getting Southern services back on track was “a priority” for the Government.
“I know that what passengers want most is a reliable service. But when things do go wrong it is right that we compensate people who have not had the service that they deserve.
“This is a gesture in recognition of the problems people have faced. We’re working hard to get Network Rail and Southern to improve this network and get this railway working the way people expect.
“We are investing record amounts in improving our railways and we need everyone in the rail industry, including the unions, to work together to deliver for passengers.”
The Government said Southern will contact most season ticket holders and invite them to log into a website to claim compensation, which can either be paid into their bank account or claimed as vouchers from January.
Customers claiming against quarterly, monthly or weekly tickets must have bought travel for at least 12 weeks between April 24 and December 31 this year to be eligible. Gatwick Express and Thameslink passengers travelling on the Southern network will also be able to claim the compensation payment.
Charles Horton, GTR’s chief executive, said: “Our passengers have had to endure many months of disruption and misery due to industrial action and poor performance and for that I am truly sorry. While they have clearly been able to claim under our Delay Repay scheme, we welcome this additional compensation package.
“It is also good news that our passengers will be the first to benefit from Delay Repay 15 as it is something our passengers have been telling us they want for some time. Our aim is always to get passengers to where they want to go on time, but if we don’t, it is right that they are compensated.”
Croydon South MP Chris Philp, who said he has lobbied the Government to bring in the compensation, said he was pleased at the announcement.
“This is a small gesture to recognise the misery and chaos that Southern has caused to commuters’ lives on a daily basis,” he said.
He further called on the Government to “break” the RMT and Aslef strikes over the Christmas period, said he was lobbying for immediate extra infrastructure improvements, digital signals and track widening around East Croydon and repeated his calls for GTR to lose the Southern franchise.
“I am seeing the Secretary of State pretty much weekly on this issue so that I can stress to him how important this is and the scale of the impact that Southern’s service is having on people’s lives,” said Mr Philp. “I have also been to see the Chancellor at Number 11 to ask for more funding.”
However, it appears there will be no additional compensation for individual ticket holders or pay-as-you-go Oyster customers, beyond the new Delay Repay 15 scheme.
Under that new scheme, passengers will be able to claim a 25 per cent refund for the cost of a single fare for journey delays between 15 and 29 minutes. The current minimum threshold for compensation is 30 minutes.
The Government’s announcement comes days before commuters are likely to face the worst disruption on the network yet.
Earlier this week, Aslef, the train drivers’ union, announced its members would be taking strike action in a separate but similar dispute to that which has rumbled on between Southern and the RMT since the spring.