Over 25,000 long-suffering Southern rail passengers disrupted by extensive strike action and cancellations have missed out on special compensation they were eligible for.
City A.M. can reveal that Southern parent firm Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has paid out nearly £14m to season ticket holders for the troubles, but thousands more were entitled to claim compensation too.
In December 2016, the government and GTR said over 84,000 Southern commuters would be able to claim a refund for the equivalent of one month’s travel after months of troubles on Southern in a one-off arrangement to apologise for the chaos.
Figures from GTR show that a total of £13.6m was paid out to 58,785 people when the scheme closed at the end of April, meaning thousands missed out on compensation.
The special scheme for season ticket holders stated that passengers claiming against quarterly, monthly or weekly tickets needed to have bought travel for at least 12 weeks between 24 April and 31 December that year.
GTR had told passengers to check if they were entitled to the one-off compensation offer, and said in a statement: “We advertised this heavily through every available channel."
Figures from the Department for Transport published last week reported that GTR had paid out just shy of £15m in compensation for 2016/17 outside of the one-off pay-out to season ticket holders – more than any other train operator.
A GTR spokesperson said: “When anyone is delayed we want them to be compensated and these figures demonstrate how much we have done to modernise our systems to make it easier to claim, and to promote Delay Repay to passengers.
“GTR paid out more than other train companies because it has by far the most passengers, and disruption caused by industrial action was also at its highest during this period. We also began offering Delay Repay compensation for delays of just 15 minutes, unlike the 30 minutes or more offered by other train companies, and this accounts for a third of all claims.”
Train operating firms paid out £74m in total, a rise on the £45m for the year before.
Rail minister Paul Maynard said: “We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme since Victorian times to deliver improvements that passengers want - more space, and faster, more frequent services.
“But it is right that when things go wrong passengers are compensated fairly, which is why we are improving the compensation offer and are working with the rail industry to ensure everybody knows what they are entitled to.”
Southern remains in dispute with the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union over the role of the guard, but has settled its row with train drivers’ union Aslef, which had caused more disruptive industrial action.
The RMT has since spread the row to over train operating firms, with three 24-hour strikes planned across Greater Anglia, South Western Railway, Merseyrail and Northern starting today, along with a 24-hour walkout on Southern today.