Train firms could receive payouts from snow cancellations

The cancellation of trains amid heavy snowfall could add to the millions of pounds rail companies receive each year in compensation.

Operators in England and Wales received £181 million from Network Rail for unplanned disruption in the 2016/17 financial year, but paid out just £74 million in compensation to delayed passengers.

Greater Anglia - which cancelled more than 200 trains in anticipation of the Siberian blast - received £4.4 million during the period.

Campaigner urged automatic compensation (Lauren Hurley/PA)
Campaigners urged automatic compensation (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Public transport campaigners have called for automatic compensation to be introduced across the rail industry, to ensure more passengers receive what they are entitled to.

Just over a third (35%) of passengers are claiming compensation, according to a study by Transport Focus published in November 2016.

This was compared with 12% in 2013.

Disruption caused by issues such as infrastructure faults, vandalism or bad weather are attributed to Government-owned Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining tracks.

Network Rail makes payments to train companies when the aggregate length of delays exceeds a performance benchmark over a certain period.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Passengers see train operators profiting from delays and are rightly angry.

"What we need is automatic delay-repay, already run by some companies, rolled out across the system and for the Department of Transport (DfT) to stop blocking much needed fares reform."

A spokesman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: "These payments are overseen by the rail regulator which says that they keep costs down for taxpayers and fare payers, and they are completely separate from the money customers rightly receive for delays.

"The payments compensate train operators for lost revenue when fewer people travel due to disruption and they encourage rail companies to work together to improve punctuality."

He added that the industry is improving how compensation is paid to passengers.

The figures for money received and paid out by train operators came from Press Association analysis of DfT and Network Rail data.

Out of the 20 operators included there was no information on the money received by one company and the compensation paid out by five companies.

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