After a week of major disruption, Southeastern’s passengers were finally given a glimmer of hope with the announcement of reduced thresholds for Delay Repay. Currently, passengers travelling on Southeastern services can only claim compensation when they have been delayed for 30 minutes or more, a fairly lengthy time. Many people regularly experience delays just under this threshold but are not entitled to any compensation despite the significant effect this has on work, social and family life. However, from Autumn 2019 this threshold will be reduced to 15 minutes.
This change is long overdue and something that TLC has been vigorously campaigning for. However, it’s not all good news. Govia’s own press release says:
“Delay Repay 15 was always going to be introduced as part of the next South Eastern franchise. This announcement means that passengers will get the benefit sooner.”
In fact, the new South Eastern franchise was meant to have started many months ago and has already been delayed several times, so passengers should have seen the benefits long before now. Moreover, a raft of long awaited improvements were promised as part of the next franchise. A 15 minute Delay Repay threshold was one of these, but others included additional services, new fast trains and, presumably, replacement of much of the existing, life-expired, rolling stock. Buried in the announcement was confirmation that Govia’s current contract has been extended, yet again, until at least 10 November 2019 and potentially all the way until 1 April 2020. The other promised improvements have therefore been kicked back yet again. Despite growing overcrowding, passengers will see no increases in capacity, no improvements in journey times and no initiative to replace rolling stock which is increasingly unfit for purpose and failing on a regular basis.
When stuck on an overcrowded service, delayed or short-formed yet again due to stock failure, Southeastern’s passengers will surely be soothed in the knowledge that they can claim compensation after just 15 minutes. Let’s be clear – we’re pleased that 15 minute Delay Repay is finally coming in, but many other promised improvements linked to the new franchise will continue to be held back. Once again, the Department for Transport has demonstrated its inability to run a franchise competition, and yet again it’s passengers who pay the price – albeit with a few more pennies in the pocket when things go wrong!