Train companies pay millions for Covid and weather disruption as claims increase

Covid and bad weather have hit rail companies badly in the pocket, new figures released today reveal.

Compensation claims by passengers who faced delayed or cancelled services on the railways have spiralled dramatically.

The figures reveal the challenge faced by train companies as they ramped up services following the impact of Covid lockdowns.

Three operators in our region have racked up a combined 167,965 in rail delay compensation claims from frustrated passengers, according to data released from the Office of Rail and Road.

The period covered is October 17 last year to January 8 this year – a period of time when the country was battered by Storm Arwen and Storm Barra, causing widespread disruption. Further disruption has been caused since, with storms Eunice and Franklin flooding large sections of line, particularly between the West Midlands, Shropshire and Wales.

Railway firms, including Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains and Transport for Wales, offer compensation to passengers when their train has been delayed by 15 minutes or more through ‘Delay Repay’ schemes. They have clear instructions in their websites on how passengers can claim their money back.

Each of the train companies saw dramatic increases in the percentage of claims compared to the previous year, costing them millions of pounds in lost revenue.

The overall data has been influenced by Covid – with more trains running, and more people travelling than compared to October 2020 and January 2021, alongside the impact of the storms. Covid has also had an impact on staffing levels, with services cancelled at times because of a lack of drivers.

West Midlands Trains, which runs West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway services in the region, had 43,174 claims over the three month period – an increase of 621.6 per cent compared to the period the year before.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The increase in Delay Repay claims has been seen across the rail industry and reflects the big jump in passenger numbers following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.”

Avanti West Coast, which runs services to London and Manchester, had the largest number of claims with 108,265 – an increase of 1,009.8 per cent. A spokesman said: “We’re committed to making it as easy as possible for our customers to claim the compensation they are due when they are delayed by 15 minutes or more.”

Meanwhile Transport for Wales, which runs services through the Black Country and into Shropshire and Wales, recorded 16,526 rail compensation claims – up 1,842 per cent from the year before.

Barry Lloyd, TfW’s head of customer experience and innovation, said: “The period towards the end of 2021 saw major disruption across the rail network as a result of the impact of Storms Arwen and Barra, and while we worked closely with our industry colleagues Network Rail to keep customers on the move during the bad weather, this did lead to many journeys taking longer than planned.

“Since then, we’ve been working hard to respond to the increase in Delay Repay claims that came in as a result of this disruption, to ensure that customers receive the compensation they are entitled to.”

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