Transport secretary Chris Grayling has launched plans to make it easier for passengers to claim compensation for delayed or cancelled journeys as the latest figures show that payouts by train companies have rocketed since 2009.
Future train operators under government-awarded franchises will be required to speed up claims by circumventing the need for passengers to enter their personal details each time they make a claim.
The so-called one-click compensation scheme comes at a time when the public have suffered severe delays, cancellations and overcrowding from a botched timetable upgrade in May.
Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) today show that compensation payouts have rocketed 2,600 per cent since 2009/10 – when operators paid just £2.9m for the year – to £81m for 2017/18, the highest year so far for compensation payouts and an increase of 80 per cent over the last two years.
The operator that paid the most compensation was Virgin Trains West Coast, which paid £17.4m for 2017/18, followed by South West Trains which paid out £17.2m. South West Trains was brought under the control of South Western Railway last year.
The recently nationalised Virgin Trains East Coast franchise paid out £14.6m in 2017/18, while Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) paid £4.24m – not including the £2.2m it paid to Southern season ticket holders for the disruption in 2016.
Research commissioned by the government shows that only 38 per cent of commuters claimed compensation for their most recent eligible delay under a delay repay scheme.
Chief executive of Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said: “After recent disruption, so-called one-click automated compensation for delays on the railway cannot arrive too soon, so we look forward to seeing this in the new franchises for Southeastern, East Midland and the West Coast Partnership.
"Our research, published today by the DfT, does show that while it’s now easier to claim far too many passengers still don’t request the compensation they are eligible to receive. Train operators still have a lot to do before the majority of eligible passengers get the compensation they deserve under current arrangements.”
Jacqueline Starr, managing director for customer experience for the rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “While rail companies are working together to improve customer satisfaction, sometimes things go wrong and we’re doing even more to encourage compensation claims.
“To meet our commitment to improving for customers as part of our long term plan, we are introducing an independent ombudsman and we would welcome changes to franchise agreements that make claiming compensation even easier.”