St Albans Liberal Democrat criticises Thameslink compensation scheme
PUBLISHED: 13:07 29 November 2018
The compensation for Govia Thameslink Railway passengers caught up in this summer’s disruption has been criticised.
The deadline for season ticket holders to claim money back after enduring cancellations, delays and overcrowding, is this Friday.
Will Tucker, a Liberal Democrat candidate for St Albans district council, said: “Thameslink passengers received a terrible service this summer.
“The chaos affected thousands of people’s mental health, ability to get to work and finances.
“Freedom of Information requests by Daisy Cooper show the Government and Thameslink conspired to keep the compensation scheme ‘low key’ and now it appears they are trying to close the scheme before everyone has a chance to apply for the compensation they are owed.
“Season Ticket holders should have received their compensation automatically and certainly shouldn’t be stopped from applying for compensation by some arbitrary date.
“I hope Thameslink will review their approach to compensation and make an automatic payment to anyone who didn’t get round to claiming their compensation before the deadline.
“Given that non-season ticket passengers can only begin to apply for their compensation six months since the disruption began, I hope they will be flexible with passengers who understandably don’t have their old tickets or proof of purchase.”
St Albans Liberal Democrat candidate and rail campaigner Daisy Cooper made a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Transport (DfT) earlier this year.
The request asked for all email and other correspondence that led up to the decision to offer between one to four weeks’ compensation to season ticket holders.
Among the correspondence, there was an email from a member of the DfT passenger services office, which said: “My advice would be to keep this low key and targeted at passengers and stakeholders, not media.”
The scheme was designed by DfT to target passengers who were most affected by the disruption.
This special compensation was on top of Delay Repay schemes for trains which delayed by more than 15 minutes.
A DfT spokesperson said: “Passengers deserve a reliable train service, and when things do go wrong it is vital that they are compensated fairly. That is why we have taken action to establish industry-funded special compensation schemes.
“GTR’s compensation scheme was widely publicised at the start of July, shortly before the correspondence in question was sent.
“Our priority was therefore to directly inform passengers eligible for compensation about their right to claim, while also ensuring the process worked smoothly.”
A Thameslink spokesperson said: “This email from the Department for Transport is clearly about the detail of eligibility, terms and conditions, not about the scheme as a whole, on which we have issued no fewer than six press releases to the media, including one announcing that the details were available on our websites.
“Since July we have promoted the scheme widely with posters, leaflets and announcements at all qualifying stations, advertisements in regional and London press, direct emails to over 105,000 customers and regular updates on our digital communication channels including social media websites and ticketing app.
“We have handed out over 70,000 leaflets at high footfall stations and been regularly updating our key stakeholders, including consumer and rail user groups, to help raise awareness among their members. We will continue promoting this scheme until it ends on 31 January.”
The compensation scheme for non-season ticket holders opened on Monday, November 26.
The response to Ms Cooper’s Freedom of Information also contained an email in which Thameslink discusses alternative options for compensating non-season ticket holders.
The email read: “A claims process is, by its nature, not customer-friendly and would have to purely rely on customers being aware and making a claim for daily tickets, the industry costs to administer a claims process for this would be significant (all having to be manually processed), alongside a high and impossible to quantify fraud risk.
“We have discussed and suggest alternative options outside of another scheme based on individuals claiming, which could include future ticket discounts or a period of ‘free travel’.”
To find out more about the scheme, visit railcompensation.thameslinkrailway.com