One of the bidders in the running for the Southeastern train franchise says it will not provide automatic compensation to delayed customers, despite a sector-wide push to ensure passengers are more swiftly and fairly compensated, City A.M. can exclusively reveal.
Govia, which is in line to team-up with Network Rail to run the Southeastern franchise, plans to bring in ticketless travel on the network using ticketless smartcard technology.
However, in a move that will heighten the already maxed-out blood pressure of London’s beleaguered rail commuters, Govia revealed it will not automatically refund customers on the Southeastern network when it introduces its smartcard, called "The Key".
Bizarrely, while Govia has no plans to put automatic compensation to in place on Southeastern, on its beleaguered Southern rail network it committed to putting an automatic compensation structure in place during 2017, using the same smartcard technology.
A spokesman for Southeastern told City A.M.:
The Key does not currently automatically refund delay repay compensation back to the card holder’s account.
While smart ticketing technology offers broad potential for future developments such as automatic delay repay, this was not part of the specification in the current contract we have with the department for transport.
Putting his head above the parapet earlier this week, transport secretary Chris Grayling raved about the move to so-called smart cards, which cost the department for transport £21.5m in 2015/16.
“I can buy my lunch at the Commons with my phone, but I still have to buy a paper ticket in the mornings," he told the Evening Standard.
Furthermore, one of the UK's most recent rail franchise victories – Abellio's win of the East Anglia network – included a headline promise for "automatic ‘delay repay" for season and advance purchase tickets.
Virgin West Coast introduced automatic delay repay in 2015 and a raft of other franchises, including C2C, Northern and TransPennine, have plans in place to introduce similar structures.
During 2015/16, Southeastern fined Network Rail £50m to compensate it for either planned or unplanned delays on its network.
The rail firm paid over £1.4m to passengers in compensation for delayed journeys during 2014/15 – the latest figures available from the department for transport (DfT).
“Passengers want a reliable train service, but when things go wrong it is vital that they are compensated fairly. We are working with train companies to make it as easier for passengers to claim their rightful compensation.
"We want the Southeastern franchise to give better services for passengers," a spokesperson for the DfT said.