Sydney Trains paying out passengers who miss flights
Travellers who miss flights because of delays on Sydney's train network are getting payouts from the NSW government.
Data obtained exclusively by 9News reveals Sydney Trains has handed out a total of more than $3,800 in "goodwill payments" to 12 passengers who missed flights due to service delays, disruptions, cancellations or incidents on its network in the past four months.
It paid out more than $4,400 to another dozen people during the 2018-19 financial year.
The payments mark a change in strategy for Sydney Trains, which gave out no money at all for missed flights during the previous three years.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian even ruled out payouts for train commuters impacted by massive delays on New Year's Eve last year.
"That is not currently in our plans, no," she told 9News on 1 January 2019.
However, 9News understands some of the payments do relate to missed flights as a result of the New Year's Eve train chaos.
Another major incident that resulted in payments to people who missed flights was on August 23, when the mechanical failure of a train at Town Hall triggered 12 hours of delays across the network and roads.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance hinted at the payments during an interview with 9News about the North West Metro last month.
"We don't get into the business of compensating people," he said.
"What we do, though, is if there are odd occasions where people are incredibly disrupted on the train network, Howard Collins steps in. He might assist if someone's missed a flight, those types of things."
Howard Collins is the chief executive of Sydney Trains.
Mr Collins told 9News today that Sydney Trains was not in the habit of handing out compensation, but instead granted "goodwill payments" to passengers with extenuating circumstances.
"There's no compensation policy, but out of the 420 million journeys where we've had someone write to us and say they've suffered terrible hardship, as a gesture of goodwill on 12 occasions last year we did compensate people who lost money on their flights," he said.
Mr Collins conceded that New Years Eve last year was "a pretty horrendous day", where lightning strikes and wild weather paralysed the city's rail system, delaying passengers for hours.
In other countries, including the UK, train operators do routinely give compensation and refunds to passengers whose trains are delayed or cancelled.
But there's no plans for a similar ombudsman system to be implemented in Australia.
"If there really is hardship here in Sydney, there's one area you come to and that's Sydney Trains," Mr Collins said.
He reiterated there was no compensation program, and instead of a very small number of occasions "as a gesture of good will and kindness" Sydney Trains would make a one-off payment to commuters.