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UP to 100,000 rail commuters a month are missing out on compensation when Metro trains fail to meet performance targets.
Hundreds of thousands of commuters are not being reimbursed for millions of dollars' worth of tickets because they are unaware of their entitlements or do not want the hassle of going through the complicated claims system.
With Metro trains failing over a total of 21 months since the operator took control in late 2009, a zone one passenger could have missed out on about $135 worth of ticket credits. A commuter from zone two to the city could have been shortchanged about $200.
Critics have slammed the compensation system as a convoluted public relations stunt.
They have called for automatic reimbursement on to myki cards. The State Opposition has vowed to investigate fast-tracking the process if elected.
Under its contract with the State Government, Metro must run 98 per cent of trains each month and 88 per cent must be on time - or regular commuters can claim compensation, generally in the form of a daily ticket credit.
The train operator failed to meet the benchmarks four times last year and in March only 3600 people of the 101,566 eligible for compensation received credits.
Across 2012, there were about 300,000 cases where passengers were eligible for compensation but did not make claims.
That amounts to at least $1.3 million that could be in commuters' pockets. Instead, Metro only paid out 12,000 compo claims worth $99,000.
To claim compensation, commuters must find a form on the Metro website, complete it online, print and post it within about four weeks of performance results being listed.
Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton said there was "no technical obstacle" under myki to automatic compensation. "It makes perfect sense. It is obvious that the Government and operators could put it in place to ensure that everyone who is entitled to compensation does actually receive it," Dr Morton said.
Opposition public transport spokesman Richard Wynne said the State Government had added time to train trips and increased fares instead of standing up for commuters and forcing Metro to pay compensation.
"Labor in government would examine ways to streamline the compensation process for commuters who have been impacted by Metro's performance. Commuters shouldn't have to go through the convoluted process of applying for compensation," Mr Wynne said.
Greens transport spokesman Greg Barber said Metro didn't make it easy to apply for compensation or publicise it. "It would be easy to just refund everybody eligible via their myki account," Mr Barber said.
The State Government and Metro did not answer questions about why the scheme was not automatic.
Government spokeswoman Larissa Garvin said Metro's improving performance in recent years might have resulted in passengers falling out of the habit of applying for compensation.
Metro spokeswoman Larisa Tait said any passenger who met the eligibility criteria and submitted a claim when the operator didn't meet its targets would be compensated. "This is consistent with all public transport operators and is ratified by the Victorian Government," she said.
Commuters must have a myki pass for 28 days or more and use it for at least 10 days in the month they want to claim.
Commuters are being urged to seek compensation and express their views using the Twitter hashtag #metropayup
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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