Long-suffering passengers hit by strikes and delays on services run by Govia have been wrongly told they won't get compensation, after a "technical issue" resulted in claims being mistakenly rejected. If you experience a delay of 15 minutes or more on Govia's Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink or Great Northern services you're eligible for compensation.
Delays and cancellations have been a common theme on Govia routes in recent months, with official figures showing that almost 65% of its trains ran late between 13 November and 10 December 2016. The situation has been made worse by Southern strike action in recent weeks, with Govia facing an influx of compensation claims as a result.
New rules introduced last month mean that Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern passengers can claim compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more, so long as a claim is submitted within 28 days of the journey.
However, Govia has now admitted that due to a glitch in its system before Christmas, it's been incorrectly informing passengers who have submitted compensation claims in writing that these won't be paid as their application is too late. For more on your rights if your journey's disrupted, see our Train Delays guide.
Why have compensation claims been wrongly rejected?
Govia says the issue relates to passengers who have applied for a refund in the past few months and have submitted their claim on a paper form rather than online.
Some of these passengers – Govia says "a fraction" of those applying for compensation in writing are affected – have received letters rejecting their claim on the grounds it was submitted too late, despite the fact it was submitted within 28 days of the delay or cancellation, as the rules state.
If you've recently applied for a refund and had it rejected because your application was too late, check the dates – if you made your claim within the 28-day window, your claim ISN'T too late. Govia says it's proactively contacting those who were wrongly rejected, but if you think you're affected, don't wait – get in touch with the relevant train operator direct.
What compensation am I entitled to for delays?
The starting point for compensation with most train operators used to be 30 minutes, but the introduction of the Government's Delay Repay 15 scheme means that operators will start to pay out for shorter delays. Under the Delay Repay scheme you can claw back compensation for your affected journey no matter what caused the delay (so disruption caused by strike action is included).
As of 11 December, passengers on Govia's Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern trains became the first in the country to be able to claim compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more.
Under the Delay Repay 15 scheme, for delays of 15 to 29 minutes you'll get:
- Single fare: 25% compensation.
- Return fare: 25% of the affected leg of your journey.
- Season ticket holders: A proportion of your ticket is refunded. To calculate the compensation value of each journey, the cost of an annual season ticket is divided by 464; other period tickets are calculated pro rata on the same basis. If you're delayed by 15 to 29 minutes you're entitled to 25% of that compensation value.
How do I claim?
For full step-by-step info on how to claim, see our Train Delays guide, but in brief:
- Keep hold of your tickets. You'll need to post them to the train company or scan them if applying online (it's much easier to claim with the original ticket). If you were travelling on a season ticket, a scan or photo of your ticket should suffice for proof of travel.
- Make a note of the delay and the reason for it. Request a claim form from the station, by phone, or visit your train company's website.
- Apply within the time limit. This is typically 28 days, but check with your train operator.
- If you're rejected for compensation or a refund but still think you have a case, complain. If necessary, take your complaint to independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus.
Meanwhile, a one-off compensation payment will be made to more than 84,000 Southern passengers as a result of consistently poor performance.
The payout will be equivalent to a month's travel in recognition of the huge amount of delays, cancellations and disruption in recent months. You must've held at least 12 weeks' worth of season tickets between 24 April and 31 December to qualify. However, because Southern included the incorrect date on its website – 1 April rather than 24 April – it will honour any eligible claims from 1 April to 31 December, a spokesperson has confirmed to MSE.
Southern has this month started contacting customers it believes qualify for a refund ahead of transferring payments into passengers' bank accounts. The train operator is also launching a website to allow passengers to register for refunds.
What does Govia say?
The company has owned up to the mistake and warned that some letters bearing incorrect information are only now being received due to the combination of Christmas post and postal strikes.
A spokesperson said: "We apologise to any customers who received letters containing erroneous information. There was a short-term technical issue with our system shortly before Christmas, but some letters containing incorrect information were sent to customers.
"We will be contacting those who received incorrect letters."