Southern new timetable: compensation time!

13 July 2016

Day two of the temporary Southern Rail timetable: how is it going for passengers? As you would expect passengers learn to cope quickly assuming they are given accurate, timely information. With many peak services into London Bridge and Victoria relatively unaffected the main problems seem, at the moment, to be for those passengers whose services have been thinned out (such as East Dulwich) , disappeared altogether (as at Birkbeck) or replaced by buses (like in Seaford). This situation is not totally unprecedented – years ago South West Trains miscalculated the number of drivers they needed resulting in an emergency timetable.

Passengers want and need, above all else, a reliable timetable. We build our lives around these services and pay handsomely to use them. So for many passengers the new timetable might make their lives better. In partnership with our sister organisation London TravelWatch we will be asking passengers (including rail user groups and our own staff) to track the effect on them using our new app or simply filling in travel diaries. We are particularly interested in the cumulative build-up of lost time. Click here to read more about this work.

Could this situation have been avoided? Passengers want to see a second member of staff on trains but much of the railway and tube network operates safely with the drivers releasing and closing the doors. Releasing the conductor to help passengers more seems sensible and will make rail travel a more attractive option. So this dispute was probably going to come some time.

Would things be better if new management was put in? When a franchise changes hands only a few senior staff tend to move on, everything else is the same: same network, same trains, same stations and, unless there is a major change on conductors, the same industrial relation problems. So unless there is to be a change in approach it would not address the main cause of the new timetable. A change of company would mean inevitable upheaval as well.

However, the past few months have been grim for many Southern passengers. It is time to radically boost compensation arrangements to go some way to start rebuilding trust. Passengers must claim what is due to them when they are delayed – worth remembering that Southern is offering compensation against both the original and temporary timetables – so, if you normally caught the 7.30 but there is now no train until 8am you are already 30 minutes late.

For more details:

We are calling for three things to happen:

  1. one-off recompense for how bad it has been – existing Delay Repay is simply not good enough to reflect the extreme problems faced
  2. improved compensation offer from this point onward –  bring in the 15 minute threshold announced by Government and make sure that industry works hard to make passengers aware of this
  3. no price increase next January. July’s Retail Price Index figure is used to set the figure for January – this will be announced in August. An ideal chance for Government to to prevent the obvious headlines!

There are precedents for a one off payment:

  • during the Dawlish sea wall collapse Great Western Railway offered a 25 per cent reduction in walk-up fares (which were to be retrospectively applied to season ticket holders – the latter must have been in some form of lump sum payment)
  • with Dover Tunnel closure Southeastern offered a goodwill gesture of 20 per cent back on the cost of the National Rail element of all monthly and longer mainline tickets, purchased from the five affected
  • London Midland offered ‘5 days free travel’ for season ticket holders following serious disruption – not quite cash but it was a retrospective offer
  • Northern also offered a free week/day to monthly/weekly season ticket holders, and a reduction in off-peak return tickets, following the Tyne Valley Line closure earlier in the year.

So come on Southern, come on Government. Passengers relied on promises made to them, paid up front in many cases and for some they are not getting what they thought they were. This is a simple consumer issue! Give something back.

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