29/06/2018 10:18 BST | Updated 29/06/2018 13:00 BST

Commuters Affected By Northern Travel Chaos To Get Four Weeks' Free Travel

Transport for the North said the scheme will be implemented 'rapidly'.

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Commuters affected by Northern travel chaos will get four weeks free travel.

Some rail season ticket holders in the north of England will be entitled to compensation worth up to the cost of four weeks’ travel amid chaos following new timetables, it has been announced.

Passengers will also be permitted to sit in first class carriages during peak hours, rail minister Jo Johnson said on Friday.

This applies to all Thameslink and Great Northern services and is expected to be implemented from Friday up until July 15, after which a temporary timetable will be issued.

Travellers on Northern Rail and TransPennine Express services on routes in Lancashire, Cumbria and Greater Manchester have suffered disruption for months due to delays to improve the line between Manchester and Blackpool.

Hundreds of trains were also cancelled following the implementation of new timetables on May 20, leaving commuters stranded.

The region’s transport body, Transport for the North (TfN), announced the framework of an initial package to compensate season ticket holders, agreed with the Department for Transport.

Weekly, monthly and annual pass holders who held tickets in the areas worst affected will receive a refund equivalent to the cost of four weeks’ travel.

Season ticket holders in others areas affected since May 20 will receive a payment worth one week’s travel.

The scheme will be implemented “rapidly”, TfN said, and proposals for compensation measures for passengers who do not hold season tickets are also being developed.

TfN chairman John Cridland said: “We know that the past few months have been very frustrating for many northerners, with those who regularly travel by train being heavily affected.

“The Transport for the North board has been pressing the rail industry to adequately compensate those who have suffered the most. I’m delighted that we are now able to start doing this but there is still more work to be done.

“Compensation for season ticket holders will be administered directly by the train operating companies, with Northern and TransPennine Express due to announce details of how people can claim very soon.”

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Rail minister Jo Johnson said rail passengers had experienced 'unacceptable disruption'.

Johnson said: “Rail passengers have experienced unacceptable disruption and, while we have started to see some improvements, many people are still not getting the service they expect.

“We are doing everything we can alongside Transport for the North and Northern to improve the service, but it is absolutely right that passengers should be compensated for the disruption they have suffered.

“This comprehensive package, together with the steps we are taking to get services running and the independent inquiry we announced earlier in the month, should go some way towards putting right the problems we’ve seen.”

Meanwhile, a third new train timetable in two months will be introduced by Thameslink and Great Northern.

The latest change will still see some services cancelled in advance but rail bosses hope the number of on-the-day cancellations will be reduced.

Thameslink and Great Northern routes – part of the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise – have suffered major disruption since May 20.

An interim timetable was introduced on June 4 which saw around 6% of daily services removed, but reliability has still struggled.

A GTR spokesman said: “We urge anyone delayed by 15 minutes or more to apply for compensation. This can be claimed against the original timetable and there is enhanced compensation for season ticket holders.”

Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, Surrey, described his “acute exasperation” at the performance of services between London and Redhill.

“I am appalled at the operator’s failure to address ongoing and severe service gaps and cancellations on local services,” he said.

A series of failures have been blamed for causing the chaos, including Network Rail’s late approval of the new timetables and delayed electrification projects, poor planning by train operators and the decision by transport ministers to phase in the introduction of new GTR services.