The scheme, called Delay Repay 15, means passengers who are delayed by 15 minutes or more will get money back as compensation. Currently it only applies to hold-ups of more than 30 minutes.
The company said it was going to be introduced as part of the next franchise but the awarding of the contract has itself been delayed.
Southeastern’s tenure is due to expire on Saturday [June 22] but Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling told Parliament in April that there would be a postponement ‘while we make a decision on the competition’.
The Department for Transport [DfT] negotiated an extension up to November 10 with Govia, which owns Southeastern.
That deal includes an option to stay on until April 2020 if the government is unable to find a suitable franchise-holder in time.
Southeastern will also be upgrading its online service to cut the number of steps needed to complete claim forms by using information on previous claims and regular journeys.
“It is particularly important in towns like Tonbridge, where journeys average around 45 minutes, so 15-minute delays are more common than half-an-hour delays’
A new ‘Best Fare Finder’ feature will be launched on the company’s website to help passengers obtain the best value tickets.
Tonbridge & Malling MP Tom Tugendhat said: “I am delighted that Southeastern have followed my suggestion to introduce Delay Repay 15 ahead of the new franchise being confirmed.
“This will give passengers well-deserved compensation, as I have repeatedly called for, including in the House of Commons just a couple of weeks ago.”
He added: “This week has shown why Delay Repay 15 is so urgently needed, with train delays causing havoc with journeys.
“It is particularly important in towns like Tonbridge, where journeys average around 45 minutes, so 15-minute delays are more common than half-an-hour delays.
“I’m glad that they have listened and recognise the intense frustration that any delay has on passengers.”
John Reynolds, Chairman of the pressure group Tonbridge Line Commuters, said: “We welcome this good news for Southeastern commuters, who have long deserved a better compensation deal.
“Tonbridge Line Commuters having been pushing for a long time for the Delay Repay threshold to be reduced to 15 minutes.
‘Long overdue improvements will inevitably be put back, resulting in Southeastern passengers having to suffer prolonged misery on ageing – and increasingly unreliable – rolling stock’
“The reduction to 15 minutes had already been stipulated as a requirement for the next franchise but, because the Department for Transport [DfT] has put off taking decisions, other promised benefits are being held up.”
But he warned there are major problems still to be addressed by Southeastern or its successor.
“Extra services to increase capacity, faster journey times and replacement of old and unreliable stock are desperately needed for the Tonbridge line and we call for the DfT to make up its mind more quickly.”
“Long overdue improvements will inevitably be put back, resulting in Southeastern passengers having to suffer prolonged misery on ageing – and increasingly unreliable – rolling stock.
Mr Reynolds added: “At the same time, proposed housing developments further down the line will result in trains becoming more overcrowded with no hope of respite for Tonbridge area passengers.
“And there remains the threat of extra Orpington stops on peak hour trains from 2022. That would mean more overcrowding – and possibly passengers for Tonbridge and beyond not even being able to board trains at Waterloo East or London Bridge.”