One in five passengers is ‘resigned to poor service’ on Britain’s railways, according to a new study.
Long-term issues have resulted in ‘high levels of disillusionment’, a report by dispute resolution organisation Ombudsman Services found.
Complaints about rail services increased by almost a third (31%) to two million last year, its survey of 2,477 people suggested.
The most common complaints were over punctuality, poor customer service and overcrowding – revealing an urgent need for train companies to put passengers first.
Public transport campaigners said it was ‘simply unacceptable’ that some passengers were paying ‘thousands of pounds for poor service’.
If you’re paying to travel by train, coach or ferry you’re purchasing a service, and it must be provided with reasonable care and skill – if not you can claim compensation.
Calls for new rail ombudsman
Which? Director of Campaigns and Communications Vickie Sheriff said: ‘The sharp increase in passenger complaints is further evidence of the urgent need for train companies to put passengers first.
‘Consumers are poorly protected in rail with no independent body to help them resolve a complaint against a train company when they face cancellations, delays and disruption.
‘The Government must introduce a new ombudsman that all train companies have to sign up to so that passenger complaints are properly heard and resolved.’
Campaign for Better Transport campaigner Lianna Etkind said: ‘No other service industry would get away with treating its customers so appallingly.
‘When trains are regularly late or overcrowded, it can genuinely blight people’s lives.
‘Regulators need to ensure that when people complain about their train service, they aren’t just fobbed off with a copy and paste response but that real action is taken to improve the service.’
Government taking action
In December, Conservative MP Tim Loughton introduced a Bill to Parliament calling for a law change to establish a rail ombudsman, which would oversee a simplified scheme aimed at hitting train operators harder financially to act as an incentive to improve services.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators and Network Rail, accepted that on some parts of the network passengers were not getting the service they expected.
It noted that punctuality has been hit in London and the South East owing to congestion, industrial disputes and major upgrade work.