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Rail Passengers: Delay Compensation

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 17 November 2016

As my hon. Friend will be aware, we recently announced an improved compensation scheme for passengers that will apply if their train is more than 15 minutes late. All franchise competitions let by the Department will include that policy, and we will be exploring how to roll it out for all our existing franchises during this Parliament.

I thank the Minister for his response. On the Chase line, passengers face not only delays, but cancellations and part cancellations. Services often do not reach the two Rugeley stations, leaving passengers stranded and resulting in overcrowding on subsequent services. Will my hon. Friend outline how the compensation scheme will benefit those who are affected by part cancellations?

This is the third time that my hon. Friend has brought me to the Dispatch Box to discuss the Chase line, so no one can say that she is not assiduous on the matter. As she may well be aware, if a passenger’s journey is delayed by 30 minutes, for whatever reason—be it cancellation, part cancellation or a train turning around short of its destination—they are entitled to claim delay repay compensation. Under the new invitation to tender for the west midlands franchise, we are looking at how we scope the “delay repay 15” scheme, which will be brought in under that franchise.

My constituency is not served directly by the London underground or the docklands light railway, much as we would like it to be, which means that we are heavily reliant on rail services. I receive a stream of complaints almost daily about delays on Southeastern railway. This cannot be allowed to continue, because people are heavily reliant on that service. One thing I would say for Southeastern is that it needs extra capacity—it needs extra carriages. The carriages that become available when the Thameslink programme is complete must be made available for Southeastern so that we can deal with the capacity problem, but we must also deal with Southeastern’s performance.

I think that the question was rhetorical in nature, but if the Minister wants briefly to reply, he may.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question and look forward to seeing him at our meeting on Southeastern for all affected MPs later this month. He will know the impact that the London Bridge works have had and the extra capacity that they will unlock. We are having a meeting later today with Southeastern to discuss performance issues further, to make sure that we are on top of ensuring that this is an adequate service, delivering for passengers.

However welcome the Minister’s response is, given the regularity of interruptions to services—they are primarily the fault of Network Rail—for my constituents travelling to Liverpool Street, the end of the Parliament is too long to wait for this improvement in the compensation scheme. May I urge the Minister to ensure that it is brought in for all rail users across the country as soon as possible, rather than by 2020?

I share my right hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for bringing in the scheme as soon as we possibly can. As he will understand, an in-franchise change involves a more complex commercial negotiation, but that does not mean that we do not wish to do this as soon as we can.

Although Northern Rail is very reluctant to pay out compensation to rail passengers, it is over-enthusiastic about prosecuting people who have not been able to buy a ticket through no fault of their own. Will the Minister put pressure on Northern Rail to reconsider its approach?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises the importance of engaging in adequate revenue protection on the railways, but I accept that when people have inadvertently, for whatever reason, not been able to purchase a ticket, there is a sense of unfairness. I will make sure that I write to Northern Rail and get a reply for him.