Train operator announces delay compensation extension, but campaigners say sort service out first

As passengers face a new round of fare rises, an East Anglia rail operator has pledged to extend its compensation scheme for late or cancelled services.

Monday, 5th December 2016, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 1:03 pm
Train leaving King's Lynn Railway Station ANL-160316-152440009

Great Northern says that, from this weekend, it will give refunds to passengers if trains are delayed by as little as 15 minutes.

The announcement came with confirmation that its fares will rise by an average of 1.8 per cent next month.

Although that is below the national average increase, campaigners have accused the company of not doing enough to improve services to the public.

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Under its present Delay Repay programme, Great Northern offers compensation to passengers whose services have been delayed at least 30 minutes or cancelled altogether.

But, from this Sunday, the lower limit for refunds, which are paid either in cash or vouchers for future journeys, will be cut to 15 minutes.

Payments currently range from 50 to 100 per cent of the cost of the ticket.

Charles Horton, chief executive of Great Northern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink, said customers on the Lynn to London route would be among the first in the country to benefit from the extended scheme.

He said: “It is something our passengers have been telling us they wanted for some time so I am delighted we are able to deliver it to them.

“Our aim is get passengers where they want to go on time, but if we don’t, it is right that they are compensated.”

But West Norfolk Labour activist Jo Rust, who sits on the party’s national policy forum for transport issues, said the measure did not address the major problems facing passengers.

She said: “Boasting of an improved compensation system is an indictation that they have no intention of improving our rail service because it’s cheaper to compensate travellers.

“The rise is beyond the reach of many who would like to use rail.

“But, for those who have no option, it’s of little comfort to know you’ll get a few pounds back after you’ve missed a meeting, a family event of just getting home to put your child to bed because of cancelled or delayed trains.

“Improve the service, not the compensation scheme.”

Across the rail network as a whole, fares will increase by an average of 2.3 per cent in January.

It had already been confirmed in the summer that regulated fares, such as season tickets, would rise by 1.9 per cent.

Confirmation of the increases, which will be even higher on some routes, has heightened fears that some groups are being priced off the railway altogether.

Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Much more needs to be done by train operators and the government to give them a truly affordable railway.”

But the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, who maintain the tracks, says it is working with ministers to make fares simpler.

It also claims that 97p in every pound spent on fares is reinvested in the network.