A House of Commons printed envelope plopped on to my door mat yesterday. At last, I thought, Theresa has recognised my talent and wants to make me Lord High Master of Everything! Thrilled, I opened it up to find it was actually a six-pager from our local MP on what he’s doing about the terrible trains.
Quite a lot it seems. Old Crispin’s been busy meeting whassername to suggest this and petitioning whatchermacallit to demand that. Even before the industrial action and all the problems with the overhaul of London Bridge. I’m sure he’s doing everything he can but all this talking is getting us nowhere. The strikes started in April last year and nothing has changed: services provided by Southern Rail are so unreservedly and inexcusably rubbish as to be surreal.
Even more incredible, however, is the lack of passengers claiming compensation. Figures I’ve seen from November say it’s about a third of those eligible. Other surveys say it’s even less. You can see why. Exhausted commuter mums at school tell me that it’s too complicated to fill out a form after you’ve stood for double your usual journey time in a crowded, filthy carriage. But how else are we going to fix it?
Consider this. Govia Thameslink Railway will make an estimated £2.9 billion during the term of its contract from 2015 to 2022. That cash isn’t (all) going into fat-cat bosses’ pockets. Ticket revenues go directly to the government bypassing Govia altogether. Now do we start to see where the problems lie?
More importantly, £2.9 billion is a lot of money. Plenty enough for rail users to get their compensatory slice. And the bigger that slice, the greater the incentive is for the government to get back on track – literally.
Mr Minted is one of these weary travellers. Some of his delay replay vouchers are pictured above. He particularly enjoys waving them in wads under the nose of the ticket office and getting repaid in cash. So far he’s claimed £250. Not quite a mini-break. Not even fair compensation for the frustration. But it’s a record that something is wrong.
Please, do the same. Southern Rail users can claim if the train is delayed by just 15 minutes. For other train companies, it can be 30 minutes. Refunds are calculated on a sliding scale depending on the lateness of the service. Season ticketholders are also eligible. It’s a fiddle but it’s not that hard. Plus arrival times are displayed on www.recenttraintimes.co.uk if you need a memory jog. If enough people do it, we could make a difference. And besides, what else have you got to do while waiting on that wintery platform?
Check out http://www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/customer-services/delay-repay/