Hove MP Peter Kyle has called for automatic compensation for commuters affected by Southern Rail’s new emergency timetable, which is due to start next week.
The beleaguered rail company is cutting 341 services across its network, with 5% of peak Brighton to Victoria trains slashed and Brighton to Southampton services scrapped altogether.
Working parents are set to be amongst the worst affected, with the 8.15am and 8.30am direct Brighton to Victoria trains cut, meaning anyone dropping off their kids at nursery or school breakfast clubs at 8am will have to wait until 8.46am for a direct train.
Yesterday, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas called for an extension of delay repay and a reduction in fares for at least the next year.
Now, Mr Kyle says commuters should automatically be compensated for the delays, and called for the declassification of first class carriages.
In a letter to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, he said: “Given the fact GTR operate under a ‘management franchise’, I assume that you and your officials were kept closely informed of the proposals to introduce this emergency timetable.
“What assurances did you seek from GTR as to how long this timetable will be in operation for? Have you set a definitive time-limit on how long this timetable will be in operation before Southern Rail must revert to the previously agreed service levels?
“I understand the rationale behind these changes is to introduce more reliability and certainty into the services that do operate. If this does not succeed and the reduced service is still subject to delays and last minute cancellations, will your department permit further alterations to the timetable?
“At what point would the department deem the level of service provided to be unacceptable? It is widely assumed that we have hit rock bottom, but if things do deteriorate further, at what point will your department step in and take direct control of the situation?
“Finally, the introduction of this new emergency timetable will cause yet further disruption to passengers. Season tickets will have been purchased on the basis of a level of service which is, for the immediate future, no longer being provided.
“At Prime Ministers Questions last week, the Prime Minister made reference on the Government working on additional compensation for those affected by the current issues on Southern Rail.
“Can you confirm this and if season ticket holders, who have already endured a torrid first half of the year, will receive automatic compensation both for the disruption to date and also for the period of this temporary timetable?
“With service levels reduced, will you be giving any guidance to Southern Rail on declassifying first class accommodation as the trains that do run will inevitably be far busier as a result of the removal of so many trains from the timetable?
“The link between London and the South Coast is vital for the economy prosperity of the region and thousands of my constituents rely on it every day to get to work. In light of this, I would appreciate a response to this letter as soon as possible.”
Brighton commuter Jon Sellors agreed that a rebate on season tickets would go a small way to ease the pain of the disruption – but called on more intervention to solve the crisis once and for all.
He said: “I commute to London Bridge four days a week, paying £4400 a year, and travel to Bournemouth one day a week so I’m going to be doubly impacted the timetable changes. It would at least be a little compensation if Govia announced that season ticket renewals would be discounted to reflect the disruption suffered this year.
“We are sick and tired of the excuses and accusations thrown backwards and forwards between Govia and the RMT. While there has been sympathy for both sides in this dispute in the past, that has long since evaporated. All we want is for the respective management teams to negotiate a settlement.
“During this crisis the silence from the rail minister has been deafening. It’s clear that Govia management lacks the competence to resolve the longstanding industrial dispute or to implement a reasonable remediation plan. Surely the time has come for her to intervene and knock some heads together to bring this unacceptable situation to a conclusion.”
A Southern spokesman said: “The amended timetable is temporary and aims to reduce the impact on passengers of unpredictable and late notice cancellations caused daily by unprecedented levels of train crew sickness and unwillingness among others to work overtime.
“It will also reduce service gaps and so help manage crowding issues. As ever, on board staff will be able to use their discretion to declassify first class when necessary.
“We recognise our passengers are facing very difficult journeys which is why they will be able to claim compensation for delays of 30 minutes or more against the standard, permanent timetable – and not just the revised timetable which will, of course, have fewer trains.
“We are also pleased the Government is looking at more generous compensation for passengers and we are working with the Department for Transport as they consider the best way forward.”