Call over rail delay payout rules

Over-harsh compensation rules mean frustrated rail passengers are claiming for only a fraction of the journeys on which they have been delayed, according to a consumer group.

There are now fears that the number of fed-up travellers claiming compensation for delayed trains they were not actually travelling on will grow, added train-delay monitoring group Delay Repay Sniper.

Claims can only be made if trains are 30 minutes late. Delay Repay Sniper said this figure should be reduced to around 10-15 minutes.

Compensation claims can only be made if trains are 30 minutes late

Compensation claims can only be made if trains are 30 minutes late

Its figures for January 2015 for the Brighton to London services run by the Southern train company, for example, showed that as many as 52% of the 3,466 trains operated were late.

Yet, under the 30-minute rule passengers could only claim compensation for 59 of the journeys.

Delay Repay Sniper director Sarah Dalby, a regular commuter from East Anglia, said: "The Southern company situation is typical of what is going on all over the country.

"People are being delayed on an almost daily basis. Quite often these hold-ups last around 10-15 minutes so people are unable to make a claim. The compensation rules should be changed to take into account these shorter, but annoying, delays."

Delay Repay Sniper technical adviser Lee Fortnam said: "We do not condone any fraudulent claiming.

"But it could be that passengers who have been delayed five minutes on Monday, five minutes on Tuesday, 10 minutes on Wednesday and 10 minutes on Thursday might be tempted to put in for a 30-minute claim for a service they did not use."

Mr Fortnam went on: "We might also be seeing cases of commuters who say: 'I have had enough. I've been travelling on this route for 15 years, the service is getting worse and I'm going to put in a claim whether held up by 30 minutes or not'."

A spokesman for the Southern train company said: " We fully acknowledge that performance needs to improve.

"We know what passengers want is a reliable, punctual service and can assure them that our focus is very much on achieving this."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators and Network Rail, said: "Passengers are at the heart of what we do and we understand how frustrating it is when there are delays.

"Compensation levels are agreed in the contracts that operators sign with government, and together the industry has been working to make payments increasingly generous and easy to apply for.

"The amount paid out to passengers under Delay Repay increased by £10 million in 2013 to 2014, despite more journeys being made punctually over that period."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said rail industry figures about refunds for passengers had to be weighed against the fact that the industry received many millions of pounds of taxpayers' money a year.

He went on: "The present refund system is rigged against the passengers in favour of trains firms who are already feather-bedded by the taxpayer. It should be scrapped and passengers given equal treatment when it comes to late-running trains."

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