UP TO FOUR OUT OF FIVE TRAINS PER HOUR WITHDRAWN IN DULWICH AND WEST NORWOOD CONSTITUENCY – Transport minister to take up ‘replacement bus service’ issue
The compensation scheme for rail passengers needs to be revised so it covers commuter rail services in London, Helen Hayes has told fellow MPs.
The Dulwich and West Norwood Labour MP says: “My constituents are currently subject to the most appalling rail services, made catastrophically worse this week by the introduction of the emergency timetable on the Southern railway part of the network, which has seen as many as four out of five trains per hour completely withdrawn from stations in my constituency.
“In that context, I would like to raise two issues about compensation. “The first relates to the compensation scheme as it currently works for commuter rail services in the metropolitan area in a normal scenario.
“Even with a reduction to a 15-minute delay for eligibility for compensation, the compensation scheme is still designed for longer journeys.
“My constituents commuting into central London have a maximum journey time of 25 minutes from the furthest away station in the constituency, so a 30-minute delay is a delay of more than 100 per cent of their scheduled journey time and a 15-minute delay is still a delay of more than 50pc of their journey time.
“In some cases, there has to be a delay double the scheduled journey time before they are eligible for compensation. “The compensation scheme needs to be revised in order to be fit for purpose in normal circumstances for commuter rail services in London.
“The second issue is the utter inadequacy of compensation arrangements in the context of the current Southern railway emergency timetable.
“To claim compensation at all, passengers need to demonstrate proof that they have taken the journey that they set out to take.
“This week in my constituency, all trains stopping on the Southern railway network in my constituency are full.
“There is no possibility of my constituents taking the trains that they set out to take, because they simply cannot board them.
“I will add that I was horrified, after reading that Southern rail is advertising a replacement bus service, to learn that no replacement bus service is provided by Southern rail at all.
“It is asking passengers to get on existing and already overcrowded Transport for London bus services.
“Essentially, it is just asking passengers to make their journey by any other means possible.
“My question to the minister is this: how are my constituents to be compensated in the current context for what is in effect the large-scale withdrawal of commuter rail services from south-east London?.”
Responding, transport minister Claie Perry said: “I will try to address directly the points made by Helen Hayes, because of course the Southern rail situation is very much at the front of my mind and the minds of others.
“The hon. lady knows that the emergency timetable was put in place to try to restore some reliability to the services.
“It was almost impossible for someone to know whether they could actually get on a train and get home, and a decision was taken—I am sorry it has affected the hon. Lady’s constituents in that way—that where there were alternative services, whereby people could make an alternative journey on an additional service, the services would be withdrawn temporarily in order that 85 per cent of the services could run.
“I was not aware that the replacement bus services to which she referred were actually just an invitation to take a bus journey, so I will certainly take that up, because I had reviewed carefully the planning of alternative provision and was told that it was satisfactory.
“The hon. lady’s point about compensation is well made. “From my right hon. friend the Prime Minister downwards, there have been conversations about how to target compensation for a sustained period of disruption.
“As the hon. lady knows, back in April, when we met, performance on the whole network was running at about 84pc.
“That was not good enough, but it was certainly on an upward trend. “Since then, a whole series of issues, particularly in relation to industrial action, have caused the service in effect to become completely unreliable.
“I welcome the company’s commitment to reliability. “The determination to get the majority of people to work and home in a more predictable pattern is good, but I take her point about compensation seriously, and although I cannot answer it today, I will certainly come back to her in the weeks ahead.”
The motion, moved by Will Quince (Cons, Colchester) (11:00 am, 12th July 2016) that this House has considered compensation for rail passengers. Question put and agreed to. Sitting suspended.
Responding to news that hundreds of Southern rail services have been temporarily axed under a reduced timetable, Labour’s London Assembly transport spokeswoman Florence Eshalomi said:
“Southern passengers fork out a lot of money in fares, they really do deserve better. “After months of delayed services, cancellations and disruption, the last thing passengers need is a reduced service and the possibility of overcrowding.
“It’s time Southern got their act together. “Now is the time to get a grip on staffing levels and get round the table and try and bring this ongoing dispute to a swift close. “Rail devolution is paramount to ensuring proper scrutiny of London’s suburban services. “The sooner these services are devolved to the Mayor of London the better.”
Florence Eshalomi is the London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark