Train companies still failing millions of passengersMillions not getting delay compensation they’re owed

18 March 2016

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Train companies are still failing to provide customers with accurate information about delay compensation, new research by the rail regulator has found.

The research is in response to a super-complaint issued by Which? in December 2015 that highlighted how badly some train companies were letting down their passengers.

The Office of Road and Rail (ORR) investigation has agreed with Which? that rail passengers are being doubly disadvantaged by train delays as the claims process for compensation is neither clear nor straightforward.

One company even openly admitted that it’s not in its best interest to promote compensation to its passengers.

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Rail needs a watchdog with real teeth

The ORR found a situation worse than expected, with train companies putting up unnecessary barriers to claim, possible breaches of consumer protection law and a culture in the industry that doesn't consider compensating delayed passengers as a priority.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘The rail regulator confirms what Which? has said for years - millions of passengers are not getting the compensation they are owed for train delays and cancellations.

‘The regulator's plans for action in the short term are a step in the right direction.

‘The pressure is now on the train companies to show they can bring about urgently needed basic improvements for their customers.

‘And where breaches of consumer law and licence conditions have been found, the ORR must take enforcement action without delay.’

He added: ‘This alone will not be enough to solve the problem for passengers in the long term. The government must now ensure the rail regulator has all the powers and duties it needs to be a consumer watchdog with real teeth.’

What is the ORR planning to do?

The ORR investigation agreed in large part with Which?’s initial super-complaint, finding the existence of a number of obvious barriers to passengers claiming compensation.

It also found a low level of passenger awareness of their rights.

The ORR concluded that, while some progress is being made, the information that passengers receive from their train operating companies needs to be improved, with around 80% of passengers not making a claim when they’re entitled to do so.

The ORR has proposed a package of measures, including:

  • A coordinated national promotional campaign by the train companies to increase passenger awareness of available compensation.
  • Clearer, plain-English forms, website information and other written communication, to make the process of claiming compensation simpler.
  • Better training to support staff in providing information on compensation.
  • Review of consistency between train company franchise agreements to ensure compensation is promoted more prominently and more often at the time of delay.
  • A clearer licence condition for train companies, so that explaining compensation is considered and enforced as a key element of good passenger information.

These proposals must deliver real change, and Which? will be monitoring the effects closely to ensure they actually deliver for passengers.

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