Compensation call over travel chaos

Thames Water was today urged to pay compensation to thousands of rail passengers hit by travel chaos because of a burst water main after the company said it was not liable.

Train services from London to the south coast, including those to Gatwick Airport, were hit earlier this month when the burst main caused a landslide at Croydon, blocking the tracks.

Many passengers spent hundreds of pounds on taxis to get home or catch flights from Gatwick.

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and chairman of the London Assembly Transport Committee, wrote to Thames Water asking whether the company was planning to provide compensation to rail passengers using Southern, Gatwick Express and First Capital Connect who were hit by the disruption.

Bob Collington, Thames Water's director of asset management, replied that engineers had worked "tirelessly" to repair the burst water main in the quickest possible time.

"I am sure you will appreciate we are unable to predict when or where a burst main may occur.

"Whilst I sympathise for the situation passengers have found themselves in, I must inform you that we are not liable for any costs that have been incurred."

He suggested that any claims for loss of rail services should be directed at Network Rail.

Ms Pidgeon said: "Thames Water should stop playing legal games and accept that they were responsible for the havoc faced by thousands of passengers.

"As a direct result of their water burst many people had to take expensive taxi journeys to simply get home or to travel to Gatwick Airport.

"Thames Water must offer compensation to Network Rail and the train operating companies. They in turn should offer compensation to their passengers who faced disruption and often personal cost when travelling on the 1st August."