Instant cash refunds for rail delays planned


Rail passengers could receive instant refunds into bank accounts or travel smartcards for late or cancelled trains, under new government plans.

Ministers have outlined initiatives to prevent passengers missing out on their due compensation, with estimates suggesting around £100m a year goes unclaimed as up to nine in 10 passengers fail to request compensation.

The news came as regulated rail fares, which include season tickets, are set to rise by 1% next year, after the Government vowed to peg them to the annual July RPI level - announced today - for the rest of this parliament.

Writing in the Times newspaper, rail minister Claire Perry, said: ’From this summer compensation can be in cash if your train is delayed. We are making progress on part-time season tickets and the rollout of smart ticketing will deliver flexibility and the potential for automated compensation systems’.

Under a new scheme due to be trialled from 31 December by train operator, C2C, which runs services between London and Essex, passengers could be compensated immediately as they swipe their ‘oyster style’ smartcard at the ticket barrier if their train is just two minutes late.

In March ministers said the operator would be trialling the scheme ahead of a planned eventual nationwide rollout.

Under the plans, passengers would receive compensation if the train is two minutes late, then an additional 3p per extra minute of delay – up to 29 minutes. If a train is between 30 and 60 minutes late passengers would receive 50% of the value of their ticket and over an hour and they will get a full refund.

Smart cards already operate in the region and there are plans to widen them out to Thameslink, Great Northern and Greater Anglia.

This type of automated compensation is only available on services where smart cards already operate and the rollout is moving at a ‘snails pace’ according to the Campaign for Better Transport.

Last month the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Britain's passenger train operating companies and Network Rail, announced that passengers would be eligible to receive compensation for delays and disruption in cash instead of rail vouchers, if they request it.

‘Different train companies have different arrangements for when passengers are entitled to compensation but generally if a passenger is delayed by more than 30 minutes for any reason they may be entitled to some compensation,’ the group said.

The union group, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), released fresh research today revealing that season tickets and other regulated fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages over the last five years.

Between 2010 and 2015 fares increased by 25% while average pay went up by close to 9%.

TUC also points out that the Government’s pledge to cap fares will cost taxpayers around £700m over the next five years, according to Department for Transport figures.

The TUC suggests ‘season tickets could be 10% cheaper by 2017 if routes coming up for re-tender were run by the public sector’, with a third (£520 million) of this £1.5bn saving coming from recouping shareholder dividends.

Annual increase in average earnings and fares

Year Average earnings % Rail fares %

2011                    2.7                            7.1

2012                    1.3                            4.8

2013                    1.3                            4.2

2014                    1.1                            3.4

2015                     2.2                           3.4

Total                     8.7                          25.0

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