Written Answers - 8 February 2010
Railways: Passenger Compensation
Baroness Scott of Needham Market
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to review the operation of delay/repay compensation to rail passengers with a view to facilitating the use of vouchers issued with internet and machine payments.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): The operation of delay/repay compensation is a matter for the train operators that use this system.
When train operators introduce the new compensation system they are expected to do so in a way that enables passengers to utilise the vouchers issued using technology where appropriate.
Perhaps I should explain.
As a regular traveller, I am from time to time compensated by National Express East Anglia for their failure to get me to or from Suffolk by means of a voucher. However, I tend to buy my tickets using their internet facility, which does not allow me to use the voucher in part payment. It therefore dawned on me that it would be really useful if I could do so, and that this might be quite popular.
Of course, the advantage of being married to Ros is that she can put a question directly to the relevant Minister should she think it appropriate to do so, and very kindly submitted it as a written question.
Lord Adonis's answer is remarkably free of value, as the voucher I currently have states that I can use it at "any station or rail-appointed Travel Agent". No mention of the internet, or of the websites of the various train operating companies with whom I have an online account.
Therefore, in order to use the voucher, I need to go to my local station (Stowmarket), where Chris will sell me a ticket. Of course, he's not there when I get home in the evening, and he's busy in the morning when I'm travelling to London. And, as the voucher is for more than the regular cost of my return ticket, I need to buy more than one, or waste part of the value of my voucher, which takes even longer. It gets worse though. Some railway companies offer discounts for purchase via the internet, so I lose the benefit of those too.
Sometimes, I do wonder if the Government want us to use the railways...