If you get the train regularly, you may know that 2018 has not been the rail industry’s finest year. In particular, there was the disastrous introduction of new timetables across the whole network, but particularly hitting the Northern Rail and Govia Thameslink services. I know the former has probably been worse, but I was in part affected by the latter. The weeks following the highly theoretical new timetables’ introduction saw delays, cancellations and general miserableness.
The government dictated that passengers should be compensated, and GTR has set aside £15m for claims this year and won’t make a profit.
As to how you go about getting this money back? Well that can be complicated. If you’re a season ticket holder, then it should be simple. But I am not a season ticket holder because I use the line on a variable basis. Most of the time I use the train and my Brompton – but the route can vary. If it’s a nice day, or there are no handy connections, I’ll cycle a longer route. If the weather is worse and there is a good connection, I’ll change trains and cycle a shorter route. Similarly, I might go in one route, and out another. Sometimes I don’t travel at all, and work from home. Finally, I might cycle all the way into work and not bother with the train at all.
Fortunately, I don’t buy paper tickets, but use a Pay-As-You-Go Oyster card. As it turns out, this was a blessing in disguise since if I’d used a contactless bank card (which can sometimes work out better value for regular usage over a week), I’d have been poring over my old bank statements trying to establish my usage patterns over 8 weeks. A lot of work.
But since Oyster records all your journeys, I thought I’d simply log into the Oyster system and do it that way.
You can only view your last eight weeks! And the compensation system wanted me to note at least three return journeys a week to calculate compensation. Recall that the compensation system only became live for Oyster PAYG users fairly recently, but claims were for the period May to July. The Oyster system is useless for getting this information then!
Now the website did say that my Oyster card number should be enough. With my permission they can query TFL’s Oyster database and get my travel usage directly. But still, I didn’t want to say I was using the train on days I wasn’t. They might reject my claim because I was being fraudulent. (Previously I had to send multiple emails to get a miserly £5 delay-repay compensation when I was stuck in a tunnel for an hour. According to their records, the train had run fine!)
Fortunately, I use Strava for recording my cycling trips – even short commuter journeys. So I sat there with a calendar window open, my Strava account open and the compensation box open. With that information I could work out which rail route I’d taken on a given day.
Of course the system really didn’t like you going in on one route and returning home on another. While most of us probably do exactly the same route, some people have jobs in more than one location, or need to move around for work, or, you know, go out in the evening!
A cynic might say that this was to put you off claiming compensation.
I was particularly annoyed when after entering a few weeks’ information, it stopped me entering details for further journeys. That was both a blessing and a curse.
I pressed submit and just a few hours later got an email saying I was entitled to £173 compensation!
I will take that thank you.
So if you were travelling on the Thameslink or Great Northern during the May-July period this year – go to their compensation website and put your claim in. Even if you get as frustrated as I did with multiple dropdowns and repeatedly copying and pasting my Oyster card number into lots of boxes, it’s worth it. You have until the end of January 2019 to make a claim.