Automatic delay compensation for Southern rail passengers has finally arrived

Abigail Smith
Southern rail passengers have suffered significant disruption due to the train operator's long-running dispute with unions
Southern rail passengers have suffered significant disruption due to the train operator's long-running dispute with unions (Source: Getty)

Long-suffering Southern rail passengers will receive automatic compensation now if their train is delayed by more than 15 minutes, parent firm Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) announced today.

Gatwick Express passengers will also be entitled to automatic compensation.

Passengers who use GTR's key smartcard to tap in and pay will be automatically compensated. The system uses an algorithm based on when the passenger tapped in and out to ascertain how long the delay was.

Read more: Fresh September strikes have been announced for three train operators

If the delay is 15 minutes or more, an automatic claim will be sent to the passenger's account, where they can confirm the claim and select their payment method. Passengers can set up a key smartcard account online.

Southern and Gatwick Express passenger services director Angie Doll said: “We still have more to do, and when things go wrong on this, the most congested network in the UK, passengers deserve compensation”.

The method will serve alongside the conventional delay repay claim process and won't replace it. Claims for delays of 15 minutes or more can still be made as usual, either online or by using a paper from stations.

GTR's auto delay compensation system was first rolled out in July to Thameslink and Great Northern.

Research last year by the Office of Rail and Road found that 80 per cent of those who could claim compensation failed to do so.

The news comes as Southern passengers brace themselves for face fresh disruptions from walkouts. Last week, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced industrial action over the first weekend of September, in the long-running dispute over the role of the guard.

Passengers have suffered from disruption on the train operator, with the row raging on for over a year, though Southern has said service levels have risen 15 percentage points in nine months and 85 per cent of trains now arrive on time.

A Southern spokesperson said they were "disappointed by this unnecessary action" and said the train firm will "make every attempt to minimise disruption".

However, London Travel Watch, the city's independent passenger watchdog, has noted that there are still many GTR stations where the smart card cannot be used; this still leaves those using Oyster and contactless cards without any automatic compensation.

Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, said:

This is further good news for passengers who use GTR’s key smartcard to travel in and around London.

However this facility must also be made available to passengers using Oyster and Contactless payment card users. It is bad enough being delayed – operators should make it as easy as possible for passengers to claim what they are entitled to and we will continue to urge the operator to make further improvements.

Read more: Auto delay repay? No way, says the company bidding to run Southeastern

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