Labour and Conservative manifestos outline new consumer protection policies and pledge fares freezes to make rail travel more affordable

 

 

New measures to improve passengers’ perceptions of the value for money of rail travel are set to be introduced by the new government with both the

Labour and Conservative parties pledging reforms in addition to freezing fares.

The Conservative Party manifesto states that the Tories will “require train companies to improve compensation arrangements for passengers when trains are more than a few minutes late”. The change would mean significant amendments to the current compensation regime under which passengers can only claim refunds if their train is delayed by half an hour or more.

Reforms planned by Labour to improve value for money include simplifying fares and ensuring passengers are sold the cheapest ticket for their journey.

Both parties have also promised cheaper rail fares. The Tories have pledged to extend the real terms freeze on fare rises introduced in the last two years for the entire term of the next government. Labour would freeze fares in 2016 while implementing wider reforms arising from its planned review of the industry.

Labour has costed the one-year freeze at £200m which it would pay for by delaying two road improvement schemes.

The Conservatives have not said how much their five-year fares freeze would cost, but Labour estimated the price at £1.8bn.

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged a real terms fare freeze over the next parliament.

A Conservative Party spokesman told Passenger Transport that reforms being examined include extending the automatic compensation scheme National Express-owned c2c will introduce later this year to other franchises.

Under c2c’s new compensation scheme, smartcard ticket holders will receive an automatic credit of 3p per delay minute to their bank account if their train is late by more than two minutes. The standard delay repay scheme will apply if trains are half an hour or more late.

However, in his latest update to passengers, c2c managing director Julian Drury indicated that National Express only considers it feasible to offer the new compensation scheme because of his company’s table topping performance, which will limit payments. Over the past year, 96.9% of c2c trains arrived within five minutes of schedule and 84.5% within one minute of schedule.

“It’s because of these results that we are able to take customer service to the next level, with our industry-leading promise to passengers of automatic refunds when they are delayed for as little as two minutes, from the end of this year,” Drury said.

A Labour spokesman told Passenger Transport that devising a simpler fares structure would be included in the remit of the new National Rail body Labour plans to create to oversee the industry, and that passengers would have a new legal right to the cheapest available ticket.

The Autumn 2014 National Passenger Survey from Transport Focus shows 46% of rail users ‘satisfied’ with value for money.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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