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House of Commons Hansard
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Rail Disruption: Passenger Compensation
05 July 2018
Volume 644
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11. What steps he is taking to ensure the provision of compensation to passengers affected by recent rail disruption. [906273]

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Recent disruption on the rail service has been unacceptable and the Government have been clear that passengers will be appropriately compensated. Transport for the North has agreed that the special compensation should cover weekly, monthly and annual season ticket holders on the worst affected northern routes who experienced severe disruption before and after the May timetable change.

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Well, that all sounds very good in principle, but owing to weeks of chaos, cancellations and delays, my constituent, Alex Hodgson, has had to use a significant proportion of his annual leave. He is still being passed between departments at TransPennine Express and has now been offered the equivalent of £1 a day compensation. Despite assurances from the Secretary of State, he and other constituents feel let down and ignored. What will the Minister do about it?

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Transport for the North has set out high-level details of the scheme, which will enable passengers who have season tickets to be compensated for up to one month’s cash compensation where they have suffered severe disruption. That is in addition to the normal compensation schemes available to passengers through the delay repay mechanism.

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Passengers are experiencing significant delays travelling from west to east on TransPennine Express services, owing to cancellations and other delays. Will the Minister do everything that he can to persuade TransPennine Express to improve these services and to offer proper compensation? Season ticket holders in Yorkshire are getting one week’s compensation, whereas those in the north-west are getting one month’s compensation. That does not seem fair.

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Transport for the North has determined that passengers on the most severely affected routes, principally on Northern services, will get four weeks’ cash compensation, as my hon. Friend rightly said, and those on the less severely affected routes, which happen to be in Yorkshire, will receive one week’s cash compensation. That is a matter for Transport for the North.

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The National Audit Office revealed that the Minister’s Department has allowed Govia Thameslink Railway to buy out its liabilities for poor performance through to September 2018. The Public Accounts Committee has concluded that the threat to strip GTR of its franchise is not a credible one. What can he do to protect passengers from a continuation of the current appalling performance if the 15 July interim timetable fails to bring stability?

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Rail operating companies will be held responsible for that portion of performance for which they are responsible and accountable, and that is now under way. The Secretary of State has set in train a hard review of GTR, and at the end of that hard review, all appropriate options will be on the table and available to the Secretary of State and to the whole Government.

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It was a Labour Government who established the NHS, and today we thank all who have served in it since.

Following the Secretary of State’s statement on the timetable chaos to the House on 4 June, he said in his response to the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) that, with regard to compensation, the train operating companies

“will have to meet the cost of that.”—[Official Report, 4 June 2018; Vol. 642, c. 59.]

That is so untrue. It is Network Rail that will be funding the compensation. Last year alone, it paid out £482 million through schedules 4 and 8. Does the Minister agree that, while the operating companies write the cheques, it is the state that pays?

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The Secretary of State has always been clear that we will review where responsibility lies, and the rail industry will be responsible for undertaking that appropriate compensation to make sure that passengers have the right redress. As Members will be aware, the rail industry is partly in public control through Network Rail and partly run by private operators. Each will pay its fair share.

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Astonishing. Network Rail paying compensation means that this is coming from the public, so, in effect, passengers will be funding their own compensation for delayed and cancelled trains, for missing exams, for being sacked from their jobs or for lost business revenue—passengers paying their own compensation. How much has the Minister budgeted for to pay compensation for the Secretary of State’s decision to press ahead with this rail timetable chaos, or will he instead cut more Network Rail projects to pay for it?

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As I have already said, the compensation involves four weeks’ cash compensation for passengers on the most severely disrupted routes on Northern services and one week’s compensation further afield in Yorkshire. Similarly, GTR announced yesterday a comparable package of special compensation for passengers on the most affected Thameslink and Great Northern routes.