/ Travel & Leisure

Update: consequential loss – are you aware of your rail rights?

If your train journey goes wrong, rail companies in certain circumstances have a duty to compensate you. But how often are they honouring this?

When a train is delayed or cancelled, many passengers find themselves having to take alternative transport (such as a bus or a taxi), paying for a hotel, or even missing connecting flights.

If the delay or cancellation was caused because the train company failed to deliver the service with reasonable care and skill, then passengers should be able to recover reasonable and foreseeable damages from the train company – but our latest research shows that this isn’t always being made clear to passengers.

On 11 March, the terms and conditions used by the majority of train companies were updated to remove a potentially misleading term about when compensation for consequential loss could be claimed.

Which? previously campaigned for these terms to be made clearer and to ensure that passengers were aware of their rights to claim compensation. But three months on from the changes, we still aren’t convinced that passengers are always getting the right advice from train companies.

Mystery shop

In April, we mystery-shopped 26 train companies. Our callers asked whether their elderly friend or relative was eligible for compensation when their train (the last one of the night) was cancelled, forcing them to pay for a taxi.

Disappointingly only half of the train companies gave us the correct advice. A shocking 6/26 companies investigated failed to tell customers when they might be able to claim for consequential loss on both calls, while a further six were inconsistent with their advice, meaning some callers were told that they might be able to claim while others weren’t. The worst offenders were ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Grand Central, Stansted Express, CrossCountry and Heathrow Express.

Confronting the rail companies

We put our findings to rail companies ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and Grand Central. All said that they do cover consequential losses – but it seems their staff aren’t passing on company policy correctly. Heathrow Express told us it plans to retrain its team. CrossCountry didn’t respond to our requests.

We also looked at each train company’s website to see what kind of information passengers could get online. The picture was mixed, but again disappointing, with 18 out of 26 rail companies failing to provide good enough information to customers about when they might be able to claim for consequential loss, with most simply failing to provide any information about when they would consider a claim.

Of those that were incorrect, Great Western, and East Midlands told us that they have now updated their websites and Heathrow Express (which uses different Ts&Cs) said it had updated its terms and conditions as a result of our investigation. Hull Trains say it is reviewing its Passenger Charter.

Simply not good enough

This is simply not good enough and is evidence of an industry that doesn’t work for its customers. It shouldn’t take us watching operators like a hawk to ensure they help consumers claim for what they may be owed.

Passengers should be able to enjoy a reliable service when making their way from A to B, and when this service is impacted should be able to trust that train companies will provide compensation when it is due.

We have seen major delays wreak havoc on routes across the UK over the past few weeks – and are hearing from consumers who have been left out of pocket and unable to get to work or home due to cancelled and delayed trains.

As a further kick in the teeth, we have been told that passengers are being blocked on social media when asking about claiming compensation or, as our results show, explicitly being given the wrong information about compensation that they may be able to claim.

Have you been on a delayed train and think you may be owed compensation? Or have you already been told that you are unable to claim?

Passengers shouldn’t have to fight for the compensation they are owed after they’ve fought their way on to yet another delayed and overcrowded service. We want to hear your #TrainPain stories so we can take the fight straight to the rail companies and continue to campaign for them to start treating passengers fairly.

Update: 19 July 2018

Long-suffering rail passengers will soon have a new body to take their complaints to if they’re not happy with the outcome their train company gives them.

The new independent rail ombudsman will be launched in November and will have the power to hold train operators to account, the rail industry body announced on 18 July.

You can read more about the ombudsman announcement here.


Travelling at peak times will always lead to overcrowding and, probably, continuing delays as the system is stretched to its limits on capacity, rolling stock and staff. One way to ease this pressure is to stagger work starting and finishing times to lengthen the peak time periods. This would require a bit of fundamental reorganisation to introduce this by decree, something the authorities would find too difficult. I suppose, however, there is nothing to stop some enterprising groups of employees discussing it with their employer and instigating it locally.

Enterprising organisations could insist that their employees live within a specified distance from work. When I took up a job in 1980 I was impressed that my employer did this and bought a house nearby – about 1.5 miles away or 1.7 miles by car. At some stage the requirement was dropped. 🙁

Now that heavy industry has declined there are more possibilities of pleasant places to live being within walking and cycling distance from work. We managed in the days before trains and cars, and with some effort we could cut down on commuting.

My father used to walk 2 miles to work each day, and come home for lunch. Our cat used to wait at the bottom of our road until he appeared and then walked up with him.

I don’t support restrictions on where you are told to live. However we could encourage far less commuting by putting jobs away from the heavily-congested areas and in areas that offer pleasant surroundings (and probably more available housing). I do wonder why Which? has to occupy a prime site in one of the most polluted areas when it could its job just as well and more cheaply from elsewhere. When it does relocate it still chooses fairly expensive and congested locations – Bristol and Cardiff say.

Until that happens, perhaps we could encourage children to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I remember having an interview at school by our history teacher, in the role of careers adviser. I said I did not want to commute because it is a waste of time and money.

People often take jobs in areas they would not wish to live in and they have the wealth to pay the travel costs and, presumably, the will to give up their time in order to live in pleasant areas. I’d like to see jobs moved from the big cities and conurbations as part of the overall plan for the UK to give more opportunities to reduce commuting. Who in their right mind would really want to travel into and out of London every weekday in the rush hour?

Employers like Which?, national charities, and other non-commercial organisations kid themselves that they need to stay in central London because that’s where all the movers and shakers are with whom they need to commune on a daily basis.

Companies explain their presence in the capital by saying they have access to the widest pool of talent within a 360-degree radius and an excellent commuting system by car and public transport!

Cities in the third rank, like Norwich, have plenty of empty office buildings and much cheaper housing. You can leave your workplace in Norwich at 5:00 pm and be on the beach at Cromer in under half an hour – or on any other beach within a 90-degree radius [180-degrees in an hour], or on your boat on the Broads, or feeding your pigs. Beats sweating on the Tube and standing until Stevenage.

A better sort of compensation than chasing your rail company!
People elect to commute, some very long distances, and have known about disruption, delays, overcrowding, lack of seats (you pay for the journey, not a guaranteed seat) for as long as their have been trains (probably). Look at some b&w films of London commuters being spewed out of carriages in the morning rush.

I don’t disagree with compensation for loss but you do have to wonder why people choose this lifestyle and don’t think of making a change when they are fully aware of the consequences (major incidents apart, of course)..

In her introduction, Genevieve has pointed out that most companies are not providing correct information about compensation. Perhaps it is time to produce a standard document that applies to all companies and passengers to minimise the opportunity for confusion. It could be put on the GOV.UK site and companies could provide links to this.

The same could be done in other areas where companies and other organisations have failed to help consumers. For example, providing simple but helpful information summarising consumers’ rights to help them make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act could also be on GOV.UK. Existing information on the Which? and Citizens Advice website could be useful in compiling suitable information for websites and for leaflets available from retailers.

Franchise agreements could be used to set standard procedures.

As far as consumer rights are concerned I have proposed for years that retailers should be required to clearly display a summary and have comprehensive leaflets to give customers when necessary, or when requested. Ignorance of your rights is , I suspect, why many problems do not get resolved or are never pursued. Perhaps a tv documentary – maybe a Watchdog special – might kick start some action.

You are not the only one who proposed these measures, but perhaps leaflets could be also be made available to help those seeking compensation for problems with rail travel. It would be something to read while waiting for the train.

You are not the only one who proposed these measures “Correct! So why do Which? not do something about it?

Perhaps we could try Watchdog. 🙂

Which? are the consumers’ champion and supposed to look after our interests. They could perhaps think of asking the Government if we could have a department to properly look after consumers, of greater concern to me than sport. As it is they seem to offload it onto Citizens Advice.

Robin Ollington says:
1 August 2018

It again is all a matter of communication. How many times are we held outside stations or terminals getting more and more frustrated at the delay and lack of information. All it needs is a few words from the driver explaining what is happening or even what he thinks is happening and tensions would be eased a little.lt is the feeling of being in limbo that is so frustrating.

anne says:
6 August 2018

our family were going to barry island for the day,we were all at different stops on the valley train from treherbet, three of us arrived for the ten fifteen train to discover it was replaced by buses, phoned the other two families to let them know as one of the children suffered from travel sickness on buses, we all travelled to radyr where there was huge bridge and one of our familys had a bad foot, once on the train even though we had paid for our tickets we still had to pay more, no explanation and no amount of phoning to solve the matter, this could have been put on as a short real life story, so much more happened, you had to laugh even though it was not funny.