Posted 18th March 2016 | 3 Comments

New rail compensation plans are unveiled

A MAJOR shake-up of how compensation for delayed or cancelled trains is publicised has been announced by the Office of Rail and Road.

The decision follows the filing of a 'super-complaint' by the Consumers' Association, which produces Which? magazine. The CA said that 'pressure was now on the train companies', while the Rail Delivery Group said it was 'committed to making claiming compensation simpler and clearer'.

The ORR said better information and stronger monitoring of standards were among its recommendations, Which? had filed the complaint in December, and the ORR was legally obliged to provide its response within 90 days.

Since the complaint -- which alleged that train operators were not making compensation rules clear enough -- was lodged with the ORR, the regulator has been consulting passenger representatives, the train companies, the Department for Transport, and other franchising authorities. It said it had also carried out 'extensive research and analysis, including nearly 400 mystery shopping trips and a plain English review of train company websites and compensation forms'.

The conclusion was that passengers were not sufficiently aware of their rights, with four out of five qualifying passengers failing to claim.

There will now be a 'co-ordinated, national promotional campaign' by train operators, redesigned claim forms, better staff training, a review of consistency between different TOCs and a strengthening of operators' licences so that compensation arrangements are a 'key element' of passenger information.

ORR Chief Executive Joanna Whittington said: “We want all passengers to be able to claim the compensation they are entitled to. The information they receive needs to be better and the process must be clearer and simpler. We have made a number of recommendations to help achieve improvements straight away.

“This is just the first step, and we will be carrying out further research and analysis and introducing a strong monitoring regime to make sure that the industry is delivering for passengers.”

The main responsibility for making the improvements will rest with the train operators in the Rail Delivery Group, whose chief executive Paul Plummer said: “We’re committed to making claiming compensation simpler and clearer. We never want passengers to suffer delays or disruption and when things do go wrong we want to put it right. 

“More people are receiving cash compensation as train companies continue to pay out more and make it easier to claim. The rail regulator acknowledges that the amount paid in compensation is relatively high.

“There is always room for improvement and we know that we can do more to give our customers an even better deal. We will address all of the regulator’s recommendations.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham

    Chris Green:

    It's probably more complicated than that. Train operators need to have enough drivers available to cover all their services, plus a surplus to account for anything that doesn't go to plan, such as a driver being stuck on a delayed service, a driver being sick, or various other things. A balance has to be struck between this and staffing costs.

    Sometimes, everything goes wrong at once - that is forgiveable. However, if the same TOC keeps cancelling trains because of lack of drivers, that's a sign they've not recruited enough of them. Still, it could be worse - the worst offender was Arriva Trains Northern (or, if you're feeling charitable, Northern Spirit, the company Arriva bought out). That got so bad, they had to do an emergency timetable with a reduced service (and they got a massive fine for screwing up that much).

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    Passengers have to put up with the most lame excuses imaginable for their train being cancelled. A member of train crew being unavailable is definitely the most annoying. I've never understood that. Is it because the driver couldn't be bothered to get out of bed to start his/her shift? If that was done by someone other than a train driver, they'd face disciplinary action from their boss or even the sack.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I have been delayed by an hour once. But to put in a Claim for compensation for a few pounds at the most seems a waste of my time, as is claiming for PPI and all the other things people want me to claim for. I don't want to switch Electricty and Gas either because I know that in a few weeks my new supplier may well be the most expensive. Keeping upto date with 'who-is-the-cheapest' is a silly game and I've got better things to do with my time.