Rail passengers will get an automatic compensation pay-out if their train is more than two minutes late under a new crackdown by the Government.
Travellers will receive more money for every extra minute their train is delayed – with a full refund if it is over an hour late.
Operators will be forced to sign up to the hi-tech ‘pay as you delay’ scheme which is designed to make it easier for passengers to get refunds.
Ministers believe the scheme – to be trialled in one region this year but eventually applied nationwide – will end the perceived rail compensation ‘rip-off’.
While train companies get massive automatic pay-outs from Network Rail if the track provider is to blame for a delay, individual travellers have to wade through reams of form-filling and red tape to get compensation. Research by watchdog Passenger Focus shows nine out of ten passengers never bother to claim.
Crucially, the new scheme will compel train companies to pay out automatically. It will rely on passengers switching to new ‘smart’ forms of paying for tickets – such as over the internet, using travel smart-cards, with smartphone apps or even on conventional credit cards.
These allow companies to pinpoint exactly who is travelling on which service – and who is due a refund. Compensation payments would be made directly into a passenger’s bank account.
Under the scheme, commuters will receive compensation if a train is just two minutes late. They will receive an additional 3p per extra minute of delay – up to 29 minutes. If a train is between 30 and 60 minutes late, passengers will receive 50 per cent of the value of their ticket. Beyond an hour and they will get a full refund.
Train punctuality will be measured ‘to the minute’ and ministers say the aim is to create an automatic ‘hassle-free service for passengers’.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the Daily Mail that trials of the scheme will begin in December with Essex-based operator c2c, with the aim of rolling it out across the UK as each rail franchise comes up for renewal. Among the next in line are Northern, TransPennine, West Coast, Midland Mainline and CrossCountry.
The minister said: ‘If people are delayed, they should be repaid. I want to end the frustration endured by millions when they are delayed – and then have to jump through hoops to claim compensation. I’ve experienced it myself.’
The growing trend towards the use of travel ‘smart-cards’ – such as London’s Oyster Card – cashless credit and debit ‘swipe’ cards and even smartphone payments will make the system increasingly widespread, say officials.
One way of tracking the movement of passengers using open tickets or season tickets is to have them swipe their smart-cards as they get on and off a train, or at the platform entrance and exit.
A Whitehall source said: ‘The new initiative … is expected to provide a longer term way forward to enable full automation of the compensation process where smart ticketing is in use.’