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.
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.