THOUSANDS of rail commuters whose journeys have been blighted by industrial action on the Thameslink line for the last six weeks are to be offered five days free travel as compensation.

Operator First Capital Connect (FCC) has been operating a reduced service through Hendon and Mill Hill after drivers elected not to work voluntary overtime in a dispute over pay.

The walk out has seen only a skeleton service operating on weekdays and at weekends, as the operator relies on drivers to volunteer for overtime to run a full timetable.

However, the operator is now confident full services will be operating from January 18, as members of the ASLEF union are being balloted about an improved pay offer on January 13.

Union bosses have advised drivers to accept the deal, which will see a series of stepped increases throughout 2010.

Now the company is set to offer season and monthly ticket holders five free return tickets to anywhere on their network in an attempt to make amends.

Gavin Beazant, a spokesman for FCC said: “We will be offering passengers these tickets from mid-January. It means they can use them for a week's free travel or to take four friends out.

“We will be operating a reduced timetable this week and next week but we hope we will be able to get services back to normal as soon as possible.”

Matthew Harris, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the Hendon seat, arranged to meet with FCC managers last week after several complaints about the problem.

He said: “I think it's very good for commuters. Obviously they know people have been very upset by what has happened over the past few weeks and they need to try and make amends.

“I was quite encouraged when I spoke to FCC they really wanted to put things right. The situation at these stations has been quite unacceptable.”

Rail passengers will also be able to use pay as you go Oyster cards at Mill Hill and Hendon Stations from January 2, which will see the cost of travel reduced further.

People using the cards will be able to travel from Mill Hill to Oxford Circus using trains and the tube for £4.20 as opposed to £5.60 which it costs currently.

Are you a Thameslink passenger? What do you think of the compensation offer? Leave your comments below.