Train operators 'have no incentive to get their act together' over compensation
Train operators currently have no incentive to "get their act together" because the passenger compensation system does not hit them hard enough in the pocket, a former minister has said.
Tory Tim Loughton wants to make the process for claiming compensation for late and delayed trains easier and to set up a tough new Rail Ombudsman to rule on complaints.
The MP for East Worthing and Shoreham said the current commuter misery caused by strike action on Southern Railway highlighted the need for change.
He said: "At the moment if a train runs late or is cancelled then it is up to the passenger to claim compensation which is very bureaucratic and the amount you get back can be pretty minuscule.
"It depends on the individual passenger going through that process so the rail companies are not paying out much compensation."
Proposals brought forward by Mr Loughton in his Rail Ombudsman Bill would mean that every time a train is late or cancelled a penalty would be automatically levied against the train operator.
That money would be paid into a pot which passengers could claim compensation from electronically.
Any money left over would be used to fund the ombudsman and to set against any fare increases.
Mr Loughton said: "It would apply to the whole rail industry but in practice we have seen what has happened with Southern where there is no incentive for them to get their act together because they are not being hit in the pocket.
"At the moment it is entirely dependent on how many travellers apply for compensation."
The proposed rail ombudsman would be tasked with overseeing the new compensation scheme which Mr Loughton said would better reflect the financial impact cancelled and delayed trains can have on passengers.
It would also set a tariff on how much the penalty automatically paid by train operators should be and how much compensation passengers could claim.
It would also scrutinise rail performance.
A one-off compensation package has been put in place for Southern season ticket holders which will allow them to claim a refund for the equivalent of a month's travel in recognition of the major disruption to services in recent months.
The Government has also brought forward a new compensation scheme called Delay Repay 15.
Under the scheme passengers are eligible for a payout for train delays over 15 minutes, rather than the current 30 minutes.
Mr Loughton is bringing his Bill forward using the ten minute rule motion parliamentary device which allows MPs to propose their own legislation.