'˜Give Thameslink season ticket holders extra compensation'
Thameslink season ticket holders should receive extra compensation for disruption suffered since new timetables were introduced in May.
Govia Thameslink Railway, which also runs Southern and Gatwick Express services, has apologised to passengers for the problems which it says the rail industry is ‘working very hard to fix’.
A reduced timetable has been introduced across the Thameslink network, with an interim timetable set to operate from Sunday July 15 to prioritise peak services and reduce service gaps.
A group of MPs, including several from West Sussex, have called for season ticket holders to be compensated for the ‘appalling disruption that our constituents who travel on Thameslink and other services are suffering following the chaotic introduction of the new rail timetable’.
The letter argues the current delay repay scheme ‘is not enough’ and highlighted the Government’s recent offer to Northern passengers, giving season ticket holders the cash equivalent of a four-week refund.
The MPs said: “We believe that similar measures are required to ensure that GTR and Network Rail are held to account for the shambolic service being provided to our constituents, and to provide redress to passengers.
“The immediate priority is to sort out the chaos.
“However a significant rebate (paid for by the industry, not the taxpayer) would demonstrate that the Government understood the impact of the disruption on passengers, and has responded to their concerns.
“There has already been over a month’s disruption so a rebate at this point would be entirely justified.”
Signatories include Henry Smith (Crawley), Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs), Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West), Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham), Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) and Jeremy Quin (Horsham).
They added: “Performance on the network remains deeply unsatisfactory in the seventh week of the new timetable, to the justifiable fury of our constituents.
“Trains continue to be delayed and when they do arrive they are often too short, resulting in overcrowding.
“Tens of thousands of journeys have been, and continue to be, disrupted. For our constituents, who endured well over a year of abysmal services as a result of the industrial disputes and the London Bridge upgrade, this further collapse in services is the final straw.”
Mr Herbert raised the topic in the House of Commons today (Tuesday June 3): “We are now into week seven of this Thameslink timetable shambles and there is no sign of the service getting better. Never mind electrification, frankly trains were more reliable 100 years ago in the age of steam.
“Can the Minister confirm that the compensation package that he is to announce will be generous and that specifically it will be funded by GTR because it is their shareholders, not the taxpayer, who should bear the pain for this appalling performance?”
Rail minister Jo Johnson replied: “I sympathise with my right honourable friend’s concerns. His constituents, including those from the station of Hassocks which we’ve discussed on a number of occasions, have endured an unacceptable level of service and he’s been a strong champion for them.
“They will receive compensation and we will be setting details of that compensation plan out in the coming days. It will be comparable, as the Secretary of State has indicated, with the compensation that was given to passengers on Southern about a year and a half ago.”
A similar one-off scheme was announced for Southern season ticket holders in December 2016 following repeated delays and cancellations.
Last week a GTR spokesman said: “We are sorry for the disruption which the rail industry is working very hard to fix. We are re-planning how we use our trains and train crew to introduce a new interim timetable on Thameslink and Great Northern which will operate from 15 July.
“This prioritises peak-hours services and reduces service gaps. This is a key stage in our work to provide a more reliable service to passengers over the coming months.”
Late sign-off of the new timetables by Network Rail has been identified as one of the main reasons for the disruption, giving rail operators including GTR not enough time to fully prepare for the changes.
But Charles Horton, chief executive officer at GTR, announced his resignation last month.
He will be succeeded by Patrick Verwer, former managing director of London Midland Trains.
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