Rail minister Paul Maynard has denied that plans for “more generous” compensation to Southern Rail commuters affected by strikes are on the backburner.
The Tory frontbencher also agreed to consider calls for season ticket holders to receive a rebate of up to 20% for not receiving the standard of service they paid for.
Mr Maynard used his first Commons debate since taking over the rail brief to urge the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union to end its dispute with Southern Rail, which is run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
People using Southern franchise services have suffered months of delays and cancellations due to the ongoing row over plans to transfer responsibility for closing train doors from conductors to drivers.
Mr Maynard, replying to a short Commons debate, told MPs: “(Transport Secretary Chris Grayling) and I are continuing to consider more generous compensation for passengers on this route and we hope to make a timely announcement, but I want to ensure we focus on restoring normality to the timetable and that has to be the most important task at hand.”
Conservative MP Jeremy Quin (Horsham) reminded Mr Maynard that former prime minister David Cameron had previously made the same pledge about generous compensation.
He went on: “The sooner we can get that out to our constituents the better. I hope timely means a rapid announcement as well.”
Mr Maynard said regular talks are taking place, noting: “It has not been put on the backburner and I hope you’ll be getting some helpful news relatively soon.”
Chris Philp (Croydon South), intervening, asked Mr Maynard: “Given that our constituents have paid very large sums of money for season tickets this year and have manifestly not received the service they paid for, would you and (Mr Grayling) consider paying to each and every season ticket holder a rebate - for example, 10% or 20% - of their season ticket payment to recognise the fact they have not received the service they paid for?”
Mr Maynard replied: “There are numerous ways in which we’re considering the potential for compensation and we will take that suggestion on board and hope to make further announcements in due course.”
Industrial action and high levels of staff sickness have hit services, with the introduction of a temporary emergency timetable initially cutting up to 341 trains a day.
Mr Maynard earlier insisted GTR should aim to restore services in a “matter of weeks” rather than months.
He also said: “It is unacceptable that the rail unions are causing more disruption for passengers by holding these strikes and unofficial industrial action.
“The real solution here is for the RMT to bring this dispute to a close and start to put passengers first.”