Rail bosses’ £3.8m war chest from unspent fund to compensate passengers in North after timetable chaos
Yorkshire Post, 8th March 2019]
Transport bosses are to hand out £3.5m in free tickets and discounted fares to compensate rail passengers across the North who suffered during last year’s timetable chaos, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
pounds of central government funds were allocated to compensate regular
northern commuters caught up in the widespread delays and disruption, but
nearly two-thirds – £3.8m – remains to be spent because uptake was lower than
Passengers across the North suffered weeks of delayed or cancelled trains after the May timetable change, prompting The Yorkshire Post and other northern newspapers to issue an unprecedented call to action in a day of joint front page editorials.
More than a
million hours were lost and the economic impact was estimated at a minimum of
document seen by this newspaper sets out how Rail North, the public body which
manages the North’s two biggest rail operators, now plans to hand out £1m each
in ticket giveaways for customers of Northern and TransPennine Express.
will be allocated to offer discounted travel to parts of the North hardest hit
by the disruption and a further £500,000 to encourage season ticket holders to
move to smart ticketing with sweeteners of up to £50 per person.
the special compensation schemes, which have yet to be made public, will
encourage rail passengers to return to the parts of the North dependent on
their tourist or leisure industries.
Barry White, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, said:
“This further phase of compensation recognises the impact on passengers and businesses caused by the disruption experienced by passengers and is designed to help those areas hardest hit by last year’s events and encourage people back onto trains.
“Our hope is it will bring direct benefits to a wide range of people and businesses across the North through a rolling programme of initiatives.”
Labour MP Paula Sherriff, representing Dewsbury, welcomed the compensation and said she hoped the schemes would “go some way to get people back using our railways”. But she criticised the continuing poor performance of rail services and called for “proper accountability”, adding:
“ Local people overwhelmingly want us to take back control of our railways.”
Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said the scheme represented a
missed opportunity to extend rail discounts for 16 to 18-year-olds to make it
easier for young apprentices in the North to get to work.
Millions unspent in compensation fund
million pounds was left unspent from a government fund to compensate northern
rail passengers for last year’s timetable chaos because uptake of the scheme by
regular passengers was “far lower than anticipated”.
A leaked document seen by The Yorkshire Post reveals the discussions by northern transport leaders over how best to make amends to rail passengers and get them back on trains after the disastrous events of summer 2018.
The failure to
complete a vital piece of infrastructure work in the North West on time meant
the May timetable in the North was re-drawn at short notice, resulting in
delays and cancellations across the board due to a lack of properly trained
struggled to get to work on time or home to their families amid mounting anger
at the rail industry, a compensation scheme for season ticket holders and
passengers travelling three or more days per week was unveiled by the
The document seen by The Yorkshire Post says £6m was allocated by the Department for Transport for compensation, but while large numbers of season ticket holders took up the offer, for other passengers the uptake was “far lower than anticipated”, meaning £3.8m of the funding remains to be spent.
As well as a
desire to compensate customers, the document produced by Rail North, which
manages operators Northern and TransPennine Express, says the scheme aims to
stimulate travel to leisure and tourists markets that suffered last year.
want to promote a return to rail travel due to the damage done to the
reputation of rail travel. For Northern, £1m in leisure tickets are to be given
away through an online offer, with around 50 per cent in the areas with the
worst disruption and the remainder spread around the region.
fellow Yorkshire operator TransPennine Express, £1m in e-vouchers will be given
away, entitling the recipient to £25 off leisure or season tickets, in an offer
focused on the Easter and Spring period.
The firm is
using its customer database to identify passengers who travelled during periods
of disruption, so that they are first in line to get the vouchers. A key part
of the scheme, according to the leaked document, is a series of targeted
measures focused on those areas hit hardest by the disruption.
are still being worked out but could include offers for short-distance weekend
leisure trips or for specific markets including half-price weekend tickets on
the Lakes Line.
And a separate
element will see £500,000 used to encourage season ticket holders to migrate to
smartcards, an aim in-keeping with Transport for the North’s ambition to create
an integrated transport system across the region.
expected to result in a value of between £25 and £50 per season ticket holder.
Last summer, a
report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership set out how more than a million
hours have been lost by railway users in the North as a result of the timetable
Henri Murison welcomed the compensation schemes but questioned whether an
opportunity had been missed to extend proposed rail discounts for 16 to
18-year-olds to be available for the North’s apprentices at peak times.
“Many of those starting in the world of work as apprentices are having to pay the same to travel at peak times as those who in senior leaderships roles, and many of those same leaders I know would rather this financial help did long-term good for the Northern Powerhouse after the damage of the summer of rail chaos.”
The new scheme received a mixed reaction from Yorkshire MPs whose constituencies have been blighted by the poor performance of local rail services. Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, a Tory, said:
“It’s clearly good news that compensation is being offered to those who have suffered…however, compensation should have been extended directly to TransPennine customers who lost out through delays on cancellations east of the Pennines, rather than being focused on the North-West.”
Rail journey times ‘no better than in the early 80s’, report claims
A report into the state of rail services in West Yorkshire
has claimed journey times on some routes were “no better than in the early
1980s”, despite significant investment.
The report from West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA)
said while improvements have been made since the May 2018 timetable crisis, it
was still “disappointed” with the standard of service provided to rail
travellers in the region.
Service frequency on Harrogate, Calder Valley and Wakefield
had not yet reached required levels, while evening and Sunday services on some
lines were still not up to scratch.
The report added that it expected to see “significant
alterations” to take place when a reviewed timetable is introduced in May.
“The May 2019 timetable change can be seen on Northern as an incremental step towards delivering the improvements planned for December 2017 and December 2019. While they represent significant progress, shortfalls remain.
“In general, these ‘gaps’ are in line with expectations given the known infrastructure constraints especially around Leeds and Manchester, though others, such as in evening or Sunday services as well as first and last trains, are disappointing.
“Also disappointing is that improvements to journey times have yet to be delivered on several routes; notably, on the Calder Valley Network Rail has recently invested around £150m and delivered significant line speed improvements, despite which some journey times are no faster than they were in the early 1980s.
“WYCA is continuing to bring pressure to bear to maximise what can be delivered on current infrastructure, to understand what further measures are required to deliver these services in full – and to obtain a commitment to carrying these out.”