Posted 2nd June 2016 | 4 Comments

Rail complaints fall, but targets are still missed

TRAIN operating companies are doing better at responding to passengers’ complaints, and the number of complaints is fallng, but TOCs are not yet meeting all their targets.

Those are some of the key findings in a new report from the Office of Rail and Road, which has reported for the first time on how the rail industry is meeting its obligations to provide accurate and timely information, help disabled passengers, manage complaints and comply with consumer law.

It concludes that the standards of information are improving on websites, mobile apps and alerts, which are helping passengers to plan and make their journeys, particularly when they face delays. But passengers are not impressed: they are still rating the information they receive as ‘poor’.  

The ORR is urging the operators to do more, saying that 'the rail industry needs to continue to deliver improvement plans and assess how passengers are benefiting'

Other data show that the number of passengers using the ‘Passenger Assist’ service to make bookings for assistance from station and train staff is gradually increasing, but the ORR has also warned that the industry 'now needs to start actively monitoring and assessing the quality and consistency of the assistance provided'.

Although complaints are falling, the ORR warns that not all TOCs are meeting their minimum targets, which require them to respond to 19 out of 20 complaints within 20 working days. Some TOCs have committed themselves to higher response rates.

There is also a continuing need for ticket vending machines to be clearer and easier to use. The report says 'there is scope for further improvements', although the industry is already committed to improving the machines by the end of this year.

The ORR's director of railway markets and economics John Larkinson said: "Our focus is on the delivery of the things that matter for passengers, such as improving safety, value for money and performance.

“Our new consumer report dramatically increases the transparency of how the rail companies are meeting their obligations to provide accurate and timely information, help disabled passengers, manage complaints and comply with consumer law.

“The rail industry is delivering tangible improvements in all of these areas, but the picture is not consistently good. This annual report will now allow us to track progress.”

Reader Comments:

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

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    This problem of unresponsiveness to complaints seems to be another symptom of the flawed franchising system, where accountability is to civil servants in DfT , rather than to the people as customers and taxpayers.

  • Douglas , Edinburgh

    I think the key things here are access to data and then how reliable it is. Real time running information seems to have become more accessible and reliable in recent years (not to mention wider reaching social engagement)

    Where things don't appear to be as joined up is when it comes to altered time tables in advance and how they translate/communicate to journey planning tools

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    @David,

    "Chocolate teapot" best describes any franchise's complaint managing in the old Northern franchise (not sure if this still the situation with the new franchise), there was a 20-day wait yes! 20-day wait for the outcome to a complaint. All that time to wait for an "inadequate" outcome to your complaint.

  • David, Crawley

    I feel that most passengers have given up on the idea of complaining as it’s about as useful as ‘chocolate teapot’ so that’s why the number are down. I am sure this is especially true for my fellow passengers travelling from Three Bridges to London every day and the pathetic ‘service’ we have to endure.