A comment from Anna the other day: A letter in The Age today outlined what happened to an inconvenienced train traveller in Britain recently: after an hour delay, each passenger was personally given a form to claim reimbursement for the trip. The train management apparently have an agreed passenger treatment charter, and they abide by it. The question is – when does Victoria get something like this?
While that would have been a long distance train, rather than a suburban service, it may surprise you to hear that we already have something like it. Well, a little bit like it.
What you probably already know about
Most people know about the compensation scheme for passengers with periodical tickets. If in a calendar month less than 98% of services run, or less than 92% arrive on time (which is actually defined as less than six minutes late), monthly and longer ticketholders can claim a free Daily ticket as compensation. If the figures go less than 95% and 88%, then it’s two Daily tickets. This is a condition of their franchise contract.
True, it’s not much compensation after a month of delays, but it’s better than nothing, and those who claim may gain some satisfaction in knowing that it costs Connex to hand out the tickets, as well as administering the scheme. Obviously, this would be a good month to hold onto your ticket.
Much the same applies to Yarra Trams services, but with different thresholds (95% running, 80% on time).
(It’s worth noting that the fines paid to the government are separate from these thresholds, and kick in as soon as a train starts running late, not after six minutes. However Connex can ask for these fines to be reduced if problems are outside their control.)
What you probably don’t know about
But few people know about the additional “Service commitment” that Connex included as part of its customer charter. It has a number of points, including:
- If a line is interrupted for more than two hours and no replacement (bus) services are offered, periodical holders can claim free Dailies.
- Two hour ticketholders can keep travelling beyond the ticket expiry date if services are delayed more than 30 minutes (but being able to complete a trip is a condition of their ticket anyway, so I’m unsure how useful this is).
- And perhaps most interestingly, if a particular train is cancelled more three times in a week, weekly and longer ticketholders who validated within 30 minutes on each of the days it didn’t run can also claim a free daily ticket.
The catch with all this is of course that hardly anybody knows about it. And the company doesn’t go out of its way to publicise it. I need to check this, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a requirement of the franchise contract, but Connex threw it into their charter, presumably for some good PR when the contracts were setup.
The scope for claims is also pretty narrow, and it’s unknown if anybody has ever claimed on these points, particularly the last one.
Even the well-known compensation payouts probably don’t reach as many people as they should. People throw away their tickets, and may not bother to claim. Of course it’s not true that only monthly and longer ticketholders may have faced continued problems over the month; weekly and 10×2 hour and even daily ticketholders may have endured enough to warrant compensation.
And the killer is if your line is crap for the whole month but the rest of the system is okay, the percentages may still be high enough to rule out compensation. (The old M>Train franchise contract calculated it on a per-line basis.)
Overall, none of this seems as good as the what the UK train companies offer, let alone London Underground, which compensates for any delay over fifteen minutes.
So how could it be improved? Line-by-line compensation would be a good start. Broaden the scheme to include Weeklies and 10×2 hour tickets used during the affected period. Perhaps do what some of the UK operators do and provide a partial or full refund for individual delays. Or provide discounted periodical tickets (with the affected operator paying for the discount) the following month, so any regular user can get the benefit, without having to fill in forms.
Even more importantly, analyse the root causes of delays and ensure that the operators’ fines to the government are re-invested in fixing them. Note that over in Perth, they are investing in more concrete sleepering of track to prevent heat-related delays, but there appears to be no ongoing programme of doing so here.
- Reminder: Discounted Yearly tickets via PTUA.
Now, if only the car companies offered compensation every time a car trip resulted in clogged smoggy roads and traffic jams rather than the emission-less free-flowing high-speed impossible nirvana promoted in their advertisements.