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West Norfolk season ticket holders 'should get discount' for timetable chaos, says report

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Launch of new trains at King's Lynn Railway Station. (5833329)
Launch of new trains at King's Lynn Railway Station. (5833329)

Season ticket holders hit hardest by major disruption on West Norfolk’s rail line earlier this year should get a discount if they renew, a committee of MPs says.

An inquiry into the timetable changes which crippled large parts of the network in May has condemned an industry-wide failure in which passengers were badly let down.

But, with the cost of season tickets and other regulated fares set to rise by around three per cent next month, members of the House of Commons transport select committee have called for Great Northern passengers to be compensated for what went wrong.

The report said: “Passengers caught up in the timetabling crisis do not deserve to face an increase in their fares in 2019.

“Great Northern’s 2018 season ticket holders should receive a discount, equivalent to any increase announced this year, on renewed season tickets in 2019.

“This year was intended to be a positive story for rail users; instead the passenger railway perhaps reached its nadir.

“This must now be the catalyst for genuine change to the benefit of people who rely on our railways.”

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Great Northern’s parent company, has offered enhanced compensation schemes to passengers affected by the disruption in recent months.

It was also announced this week that the company will pay £15 million towards passenger enhancements and will not make any profit at all this year, as the report revealed that around 12 per cent of all Great Northern services were affected by the disruption.

David Brown, chief executive of the Go-Ahead Group, which owns GTR, said: “We recognise that the industry-wide failures in delivering the May timetable created huge difficulties for our customers, and we are sorry for the poor service they received.

“Since the introduction of the interim timetable in July, performance has greatly improved, and now includes over 200 new services for customers, with further additional services to be introduced this month.

“This agreement will deliver additional benefits to passengers to be agreed in consultation with our customers.”

But rail unions have described the penalty as an “insult” to passengers and claim GTR should have been stripped of the franchise, which runs until 2021, altogether.

Meanwhile, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss has claimed the rail industry is failing to deliver for passengers and businesses in West Norfolk, despite the prospect of higher fares.

Ms Truss spoke out after services were severely disrupted by a broken rail in the Littleport area on Tuesday.

Buses replaced trains between Downham and Ely for much of the day, with a shuttle train service running between Lynn and Downham.

Ms Truss said she was “incredibly frustrated” with Govia Thameslink Railway over the chaos caused by timetable changes earlier this year and Network Rail’s continuing failure to say when long-awaited upgrades to the network will be delivered.

Last month, Network Rail said it was still working on detailed construction plans to enable eight-coach trains to run routinely between Lynn and Cambridge, instead of the current four. The upgrade had been expected to be complete around now.

She said: “There are still problems on the route and I know residents and businesses are extremely angry by the ongoing problems.

“The bottom line is that rail users need to know that projects will be delivered, that they have a reliable train service and that capacity will be increased to accommodate demand.

“Regrettably this is not happening as quickly as it should.”

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