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Southern Rail operator could be forced to pay £73million in compensation over boundary fares


The operator behind Southern Rail and Thameslink could be forced to pay £73million in compensation after being accused of overcharging customers.

Campaigners claim more than 3million passengers of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have essentially double paid for parts of their journeys because so-called ‘boundary fares’ are not made readily available.

Boundary fares are fares where a person who already has paid for the use of a travel zone – such as those in London – and so only has to pay to travel from the edge of that zone when making an outward journey.

But campaigners allege that GTR passengers with London Travelcards have been routinely paying for their full journey, meaning they have essentially paid twice for part of their travel. 

Now they are lodging a compensation claim against GTR, saying that the firm, who also run the Gatwick Express, should have offered discounted tickets for those using London Travelcards. 

Consumer campaigner Justin Gutmann, who is bringing the case to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, is already challenging two other rail operators over the same issue.

He said: ‘This claim is the latest step in my campaign to stamp out routine overcharging of millions of passengers by some of Britain’s top rail operators.

The operator behind Southern Rail (pictured: Library image of a Southern Railway train) and Thameslink could be forced to pay £73million in compensation after being accused of overcharging customers

The operator behind Southern Rail (pictured: Library image of a Southern Railway train) and Thameslink could be forced to pay £73million in compensation after being accused of overcharging customers

What is the claim against GTR all about? 

Consumer campaigner Justin Gutmann, a former London tube driver and a former head researcher at Citizens Advice, says the claim revolves around Travelcards.

In London, a Travelcard provides unlimited travel on London’s public transport network and can be issued for travel on any one day, seven consecutive days or for regular commuters, any period between one month and a year.  

Travelcards can also be to cover certain zones – such as a Travelcard for London Zones 1-4. 

In London, a Travelcard provides unlimited travel on London's public transport network and can be issued for travel on any one day, seven consecutive days or for regular commuters, any period between one month and a year

In London, a Travelcard provides unlimited travel on London’s public transport network and can be issued for travel on any one day, seven consecutive days or for regular commuters, any period between one month and a year

But if someone with a valid Travelcard wants to travel out of London, Mr Gutmann argues that they should only have to pay from the edge of the Zone boundary.

Mr Gutman says that a person making a journey from London Waterloo to Reading with a Zones 1-4 Travelcard should only have to pay at the edge of the Zone 4 boundary, which in this example would be Southall station.

But he claims millions of people bought tickets covering the whole journey, meaning they essentially paid twice for the journey between Waterloo and Southall.

Mr Gutmann has accused rail companies of not making the ‘boundary fares’ sufficiently available for Travelcard holders to buy, nor making passengers fully aware of their existence.

Lawyers representing Mr Gutmann in his claim say research has demonstrated that such fares are not readily available online or over the telephone and are rarely offered at ticket counters unless expressly requested. 

An estimated 240 million journeys since November 2015 could have benefited from boundary fares if travellers had been aware of them, they allege.

The claim states this is a breach of the UK’s competition rules (s.18 of the Competition Act 1998) and an abuse of market powers.

 

‘The failure of these companies to make boundary fares more freely available is scandalous and has been going on for years. 

‘It’s a practice that needs to stop – and passengers who have overpaid deserve compensation.’

Last month, Mr Gutmann secured legal approval to bring to trial collective actions seeking compensation worth up to £93 million against two other rail operators, the South Western and Southeastern rail franchises, over the issue of boundary fares.

Mr Gutmann, a former head researcher at Citizens Advice, says the claim revolves around Travelcards.

In London, a Travelcard provides unlimited travel on London’s public transport network and can be issued for travel on any one day, seven consecutive days or for regular commuters, any period between one month and a year.  

Travelcards can also be to cover certain zones – such as a Travelcard for London Zones 1-4. 

But if someone with a valid Travelcard wants to travel out of London, Mr Gutmann argues that they should only have to pay from the edge of the Zone boundary.

Mr Gutman says that a person making a journey from London Waterloo to Reading with a Zones 1-4 Travelcard should only have to pay at the edge of the Zone 4 boundary, which in this example would be Southall station.

But he claims millions of people bought tickets covering the whole journey, meaning they essentially paid twice for the journey between Waterloo and Southall.

Mr Gutmann has accused rail companies of not making the ‘boundary fares’ sufficiently available for Travelcard holders to buy, nor making passengers fully aware of their existence.

Lawyers representing Mr Gutmann in his claim say research has demonstrated that such fares are not readily available online or over the telephone and are rarely offered at ticket counters unless expressly requested. 

An estimated 240 million journeys since November 2015 could have benefited from boundary fares if travellers had been aware of them, they allege.

The claim states this is a breach of the UK’s competition rules (s.18 of the Competition Act 1998) and an abuse of market powers.

GTR disputes the claim and says that the firm is ‘committed to providing the best value fares’ to its customers. 

A GTR spokesperson said: ‘Millions of journeys are made every week on GTR’s rail networks and we are committed to providing the best value fare to every passenger.

‘We consider this claim to be flawed, and we dispute the allegations within it. We will be defending our position robustly.’ 

GTR operate various subsidies across the UK including Southern, which serves destinations including Brighton, Hastings, Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastbourne and Milton Keynes.

Thameslink is a key commuter line to central London linking Brighton, St Albans, Bedford, East Grinstead and Luton Airport.

Campaigners claim more than 3million passengers of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which also runs Thameslink (pictured: Library image)  have essentially double paid for parts of their journeys because so-called 'boundary fares' are not made readily available

Campaigners claim more than 3million passengers of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which also runs Thameslink (pictured: Library image)  have essentially double paid for parts of their journeys because so-called ‘boundary fares’ are not made readily available

Mr Gutmann, now retired, previously worked for London Underground for eight years before becoming head of research for Citizens’ Advice.

In his claim, known as an opt-out collective claim, he is jointly represented by law firms Charles Lyndon and Hausfeld and Co.  

The 2015 Act allows for a collective claim to be brought on behalf of a group of individuals who are alleged to have suffered a common loss. 

Instead, these consumers may all receive compensation through a single, collective claim brought on their behalf by Mr Gutmann. 

The legal group say passengers who owned a Travelcard at any time from 24 November 2015 and also purchased a rail fare from a station within the zones of their Travelcard to a destination outside those zones may be eligible for compensation under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (2015 Act).

What is the claim and who is eligible to take part? 

The 2015 Act allows for a collective claim to be brought on behalf of a group of individuals who are alleged to have suffered a common loss. 

Instead, these consumers may all receive compensation through a single, collective claim brought on their behalf by Mr Gutmann. 

The legal group say passengers who owned a Travelcard at any time from 24 November 2015 and also purchased a rail fare from a station within the zones of their Travelcard to a destination outside those zones may be eligible for compensation under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (2015 Act).



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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