A government minister has promised lessons will be learnt after a bungled new rail timetable left Peterborough with an “unacceptable” rail service.
Jo Johnson, who was Minister of State at the Department for Transport at the time, said he could “only imagine the frustration that passengers felt over the unacceptable service”, adding: “I fully appreciate the importance of regular and reliable train frequency to Peterborough’s businesses, families and commuters”.
His response followed a letter from leader of Peterborough City Council Cllr John Holdich, and chief executive Gillian Beasley, who had been instructed to write to the government department by councillors.
Their concerns related to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Great Northern services from Peterborough into London following the introduction of a new timetable in May.
Mr Johnson admitted the scale of the problem had “far outstripped any expectation” but that action had been taken to “resolve the problems as quickly as possible, to ensure passengers are compensated appropriately, and to learn the lessons that will prevent this happening again in the future”.
He said: “Network Rail was far too late in finalising planned timetable changes and this must not happen again. GTR was not sufficiently prepared to manage a timetable change of this scale either.
“The rail industry has collectively failed to deliver for the passengers it serves.”
Mr Johnson, who said he was “frustrated” by the problems, also revealed how commuters can receive compensation.
He said: “I am pleased that a special compensation scheme for Great Northern passengers is in place. The scheme has been designed to refund season ticket holders up to one month where they have suffered severe disruption, and up to one week where disruption to services has been moderate.
“Compensation covers the period 20 May 2018 to 28 July 2018. The scheme is opening in three phases.
“For Phase 1, GTR have finished contacting season ticket holders identified from sales records, and for Phase 2 eligible season ticket holders who were not contacted as part of Phase 1 are able to make a claim between 25 September and 30 November.
“GTR aim to open the scheme to eligible non-season ticket holders by 30 November and will confirm the opening date in due course.
“Full details of eligible stations and more information can be found on the Great Northern website, and I note that Peterborough Station is a Level I compensation station.
“GTR has been asked to clearly communicate with passengers how it can make their claim and ensure the process is straightforward. Passengers are also encouraged to apply to GTR for Delay Repay compensation for affected journeys.”
The letter from Cllr Holdich and Mrs Beasley said the council was concerned that “the recent performance of Govia Thameslink on the main route into London from Peterborough has had a huge, negative impact on the city and its residents, both personal and economic”.
They added: “We are concerned of the impact that such an occurrence has and is continuing to have on the communities who rely on such a major transport link, the economic damage that it does regionally and to this city, and that steps must be taken to ensure that such a disastrous occurrence is avoided in the future by whatever means is necessary.”