London Midland told to compensate delayed passengers
Train passengers hit by weeks of cancellations and delays because of a London Midland (LM) driver shortage are set to be offered free travel.
More than 950 services were affected between 14 October and 10 December.
The government has told LM to offer a £7m package of benefits, which includes season ticket holders getting five days of free travel passes.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said the firm had fallen short of its franchise obligations.
The government has also secured 500,000 additional cheap advance tickets for passengers on key routes serving London, Birmingham, Northampton, Crewe and Liverpool and a commitment to invest in infrastructure improvements.
Passengers have had it bad over the last few months with thousands of cancelled trains and most would agree they deserve to be compensated.
But until now London Midland has only been offering its normal refund package, where passengers get the cost of their ticket back.
Now they're being offered a much larger package, which not only gives something back to passengers, but also invests money to improve future reliability.
The Department of Transport confirmed on Thursday that London Midland has breached something called the "Cancelation Benchmark", giving it powers to fine a train company.
That is what has effectively happened today in a move described by a transport minister as a "yellow card".
But many passengers might be left asking, should they have been given a "red card" instead?
Mr Baker said: "London Midland has cancelled or delayed hundreds of services in recent months.
"On repeated occasions, they were not able to provide enough drivers and some services had to be cancelled, with severe delays to services, and they have fallen short both of everyone's expectations and their franchise obligations.
"Securing these benefits for passengers represents a firm yellow card for London Midland and some financial benefit for those who have been hardest hit by their poor performance."
Mr Baker said he was confident the firm had now rectified the driver shortage but added the government would continue to monitor its performance and "take firmer action if necessary".
The firm, which will continue to operate the routes until at least September 2015, has apologised for its problems and said it had seen a higher than normal turnover of drivers.
The Aslef union has said rival operators were paying drivers "substantially more".
However, LM said a number of trainee drivers had since qualified.
A new timetable was introduced on Sunday but three services were affected on Monday morning because of a lack of staff, according to the firm's website.
Train drivers' basic annual gross salary in West Midlands
- Arriva Cross Country..£53,171
- Virgin Trains...................£49,620
- Chiltern Railways..........£45,305
- London Midland..........£42,619
LM's parent company, the Go-Ahead Group, said the compensation package followed consultation with the government over the past couple of months.
"We acknowledge the impact that this has had on our passengers and we have now put measures in place to ensure we have sufficient drivers to operate our services," a spokesman said.