I’ve already put my name to my neighbouring MP, Bim Afolami’s Private Members Bill relating to enhanced compensation for passengers. As Bim announced yesterday “The compensation in the Bill will be governed by the Government’s new rail ombudsman on an ongoing basis, providing automatic compensation for all passengers throughout the country. In addition, it will provide enhanced, more generous compensation for passengers throughout the country. Critically, it will ensure not just that passengers get a percentage of a single ticket for a train that is cancelled or delayed, but that we move towards a system with service levels and a contract between the operator and the passenger. Then, if that service level is not maintained, the passenger will receive compensation.”
Overall, the aims are to (i) make compensation sums more generous to passengers, (ii) ensure that all season ticket holders are paid this compensation much faster and automatically, direct into their bank account, and (iii) automatically compensate standard ticket holders when bought online, so they receive the same benefits as season ticket holders.
The Rail Ombudsman will be tasked with administering this improved scheme, as opposed to the operators, ensuring they provide clearer, fairer standards for passengers to claim compensation.
This will act as a penalty for operators who do not meet the set standards, as many have failed to do in recent months, as compensation will not be decided by their own definition of good or bad service, and will be the same across the country’s entire rail network.
- Each season ticket holder will have a “commuter contract”, and if terms are broken by the operator, then passengers will receive financial compensation. This will be broader than the current situation whereby you get a percentage off the value of a single ticket to the extent that a service is delayed or cancelled. Peak-time season ticket holders should be able to expect a good quality peak time service overall, and if these terms are not met, then compensation will be paid.
- The automatic nature of compensation is key. Passengers will be compensated within 10 working days of the relevant delays, for example, and not have to fill out a form for each individual delay.
- The new Rail Ombudsman should set up the scheme and operate it, so that each franchise holder is held to the same standard.
- Operators will, understandably, argue that a lot of the problems that beset a service are because of Network Rail, not them. Therefore, operators will have to recover the funds to be paid out in compensation from Network Rail separately. This places strong incentives on both operators and Network Rail to achieve better results.