/ Travel & Leisure

Government announces ‘one-click’ rail compensation

Today, the government has announced that it will roll out ‘one-click’ compensation across the rail network. It’s a welcome step forward, but we’re calling for more.

Three years ago, we submitted a super-complaint to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), focusing on the difficulties that people face in getting compensation from train companies.

Our research found that most passengers who were eligible to claim compensation didn’t do so. Too many people were unaware of their rights or found the entire process too lengthy and complex.

Nearly three years on, figures show that the number of passengers claiming compensation for delays and cancellations is still unacceptably low. Only 39% of those who are eligible to claim for a delay of 30 minutes or more actually do, up only 4% from two years ago.

What’s more, just 28% of eligible passengers were even aware that they could make a claim in the first place.

We’ve heard from thousands of passengers who have told us about their train pain and their stories clearly demonstrate why trust in the sector remains chronically low.

Obstacles to compensation

From being blocked on social media for complaining to their train company, being reported for fraud after making multiple claims, and having to navigate the complex and inconsistent claims process, passengers are too often faced with unnecessary obstacles when they try to make a claim.

After months of delays and cancellations across the network, it is clear that more needs to be done to make claiming easier and to help passengers get the compensation that they are owed.

While this announcement from the government doesn’t go all the way to ensuring that the compensation system is fully automated, it is an important step in making the process simpler, more accessible and less confusing for passengers.

Some train companies, such as Northern and Virgin, already offer ‘one-click’ compensation to certain passengers and it’s about time the rest of the network caught up. All train companies should ensure that passengers are notified when they are eligible to claim for a delayed or cancelled service.

Fundamental changes

Last month, the government announced that it will launch a wide-ranging review of the sector looking at everything from franchising to passenger experience and customer service. An ombudsman to deal with complaints is also due next month.

Clearly fundamental changes are needed to get rail back on track, but as a bare minimum the government must introduce automatic compensation for delays and cancellations for passengers suffering from unreliable services.

Have you tried to claim compensation? Would a simplified claims process help you get the money back you’re entitled to?

Comments

If you can’t get on a train (without having booked a seat) because it is full, would that count? An airline allocates you a seat on a particular flight. Not the case with many train journeys, particularly commuting. And can you get similar compensation on buses and coaches?

Peter Lowe says:
2 October 2018

I live in a village we do have a station. I travel to two major cities on a regular basis the problem I have is when the train does not turn up on time or at all I have no alternative transportation to my destination.
This as been happening on regular occasions this last 9 months. Also Northern Rail have installed ticket machine on the station not a problem if it works ha again not for 3 weeks now. This can cause embarrassment when asked to produce my ticket on one occasion the ticket officer refused to believe me until I showed him a photo of the out of order sign on the machine.Can somebody in authority explain to the transport minister it is NOW 2018.
Yours Peter.

I have twice been the victim of delays this year on Swansea/Paddington trains. The first on June 4th when the train was an hour late leaving Swansea and an additional 30 minutes train travelling time caused me to almost miss an important appointment at University College Hospital.
The second instance was on August 20th when I and many other passengers were delayed for over an hour for attempted engineering repairs at Paddington. We were then offered the chance to catch a train to Cardiff in only 5 minutes time and change for Swansea. There was a rush of passengers so there was only standing room available for two hours which was painful due to a recent knee operation. When I finally arrived in Swansea public transport had ceased and I had to take a taxi. Both experiences were stressful but trying to obtain compensation is so difficult that I gave up.

Shaun Steiner-Goldberg says:
2 October 2018

My train to Watford Junction was 33 minutes late. It took me 2 months to get my Delay Repay – and I received less than £10. Considering the emails, phone calls, live chats and huge frustration, I can understand why a lot of people just don’t bother.

An interesting piece in the latest Private Eye on the Thameslink timetable fiasco. Chris Grayling repeatedly claims he (DfT) was not to blame. The Office of Rail and Road seems to differ.

Essentially DfT dithered in dealing with timetable changes, and their “tardiness then left too little time to redesign timetables and prepare staff accordingly”. PEYE quotes the ORR report “Had the final decision by DfT to phase the introduction of services….been aligned with the schedule for developing the timetable in August 2017, the unpredicted consequences for the Thameslink timetable may have been avoided and the consequential risks of a timetable failure on the scale experienced would have been greatly reduced.

We seem to be increasingly developing a culture of blame and I’m not sure I like it. Chris Grayling appears to deny being to blame. Well, I’m not really interested in that. I’d have more respect if he worried less about blame, took on his responsibilities competently and got stuck in with those others who are influential tohelp sort out the problems.

If the government and train companies are really sincere they would put a stop to all the unnecessary and quite frankly bogus “engineering work” at weekends that causes millions of ruined and cancelled family excursions and holidays. “Engineering work” is just a scam to put money into the pockets of the contractors that repay the Tories with massive financial donations and other rewards in kind; I leave you to work out what THEY are!

Continually upgrading the railways, stations, signalling, stations is necessary to replace ageing equipment and improve the network as passenger number increase. Should they do this at weekends, when traffic is lighter, or during the week when it will affect most people? Can you give examples of “bogus engineering work”?

Every time I go to a railway station I notice that there is a large poster on display showing planned engineering work for the month ahead and the special arrangements that are made to enable passengers to travel. All train company websites also show this information and also provide live updates. Many weekend journeys are optional and could take place on a different day or by alternative means.

In my case, if the Norwich-Ipswich-London line is affected then services on the Norwich-Cambridge-London line are protected and extra trains or longer trains are provided if possible. In some places such alternative arrangements or diversions are not possible so rail replacement bus services are provided to get around the engineering work areas. In my experience these are devised quite imaginatively with services that go via all stations, major stations only, or ‘fast’ from origin to destination only.

Any form of detraining and changing to coach and back again is inconvenient but I have found a lot more professionalism is going into this operation nowadays with strict timetabling of the coach departures, well organised pick-up points with the buses clearly marked with their calling points, marshals to guide and manage the queuing and boarding, staff to help disabled people [usually using a taxi service] or those with children, pushchairs, luggage etc. It isn’t perfect but it is probably as good as it can get and much better than closing the railway completely.

I have noticed that if it is necessary to close the railway line for engineering work on the outskirts of London, instead of slavishly following the railway route the replacement coaches make a short journey to the nearest Underground station which actually gives passengers a better choice of onward travel connections.

I doubt if any railway engineering works are ever bogus. They take months to plan and are very expensive so maximum advantage is taken of the closure period to do other work to track, signalling or stations to avoid subsequent closures.

To cope with the rise in passenger journeys major changes are having to be made to the infrastructure – longer and additional platforms, signalling alterations, new overhead wiring, removal of level crossings, junction improvements, flyovers and dive-unders, and enlargement of depots; it’s amazing how little disruption this all causes.

While the railways cannot avoid causing inconvenience I believe they are genuinely trying to avoid hardship. As someone else commented previously, however, they could give a partial refund for the delays but when a substitute coach service is provided it replaces the regular timetable so no delay actually occurs!

I know this isn’t about rail but it highlights the entire system for any problem, in my case broadband. I was forced to cancel my direct debit when they suddenly decided I owed them £36, after 2 hours of my time (I am an accountant) I completed a spreadsheet that actually proved they owed me £35. How many others have been caught out without the skills to prove otherwise. Back to railt hough, I live in London and used to commute to Somerset weekly, the return journey was alwasy late so I missed my connection at Reading (for Twickenham) and finally the guard started to hide when he saw me and it was late because he knew that I had to battle to be rerouted via London to get the connection back out to home, yet late arrivals in Somerset automatically resulted in a taxi for the rest of the journey. In London we are ripped off for prices, my journey was cheaper by getting return tickets the other way round and when late we are left to make our own way home, no taxi for us. DFifferent standards for the same problem, so one click is part of the solution.

Which? responds as ORR opens investigation into GTR and Northern over passenger information
5 October 2018
“If Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern are found to be in breach of their licence obligations, it is absolutely right that the regulator shows its teeth by taking enforcement action.”
https://press.which.co.uk/whichstatements/which-responds-as-orr-opens-investigation-into-gtr-and-northern-over-passenger-information/

The Office of Road and Rail report summary includes the following. So what enforcement action should also be taken against Network Rail, and the DfT who delayed making decisions on timetable proposals until it was too late? It seems all these parties played a significant part in the fiasco, so rather than seeing who was most to blame, perhaps we should be looking at how they should organise themselves and cooperate better?

13. The Inquiry has made findings attributable to Network Rail, the train operators, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) about the failures to identify these risks and properly manage them. It finds that:
■ Network Rail’s System Operator managed the timetable process and was in the best position to understand and manage the risks, but did not take sufficient action, especially in the critical period in autumn 2017;
■ while the circumstances for Northern and GTR were quite different, neither were properly aware of or prepared for the problems in delivering the timetable and that they did not do enough to provide accurate information to passengers once disruption occurred;
■ DfT and ORR have responsibilities overseeing most aspects of the industry and neither organisation sufficiently tested the assurances that they received from the industry about the risk of disruption, despite having information and powers that would have allowed them to do so; and
■ the rail industry’s processes for planning and managing major timetable changes do not adequately manage the risk arising from the engineering and other projects on 9 Office of Rail and Road | Executive summary which they depend, or prioritise the impact on passengers when making decisions about these risks.

Ashok Mehta says:
8 October 2018

When making a claim you need to send your tickets in and Scott Rail told me the did not receive my tickets. The money should be automatically refunded by the Train ticket checker on the spot or at the train station.
Train companies take your money quick enough but when It comes refunds they make it as hard as possible. The Ombudsman is only (in my opinion) a front for the Rail providers and have no faith in the person at all.

Jeremy says:
26 January 2019

SWR just increased the price of their season tickets but dropped the compensation amounts under the delay repay scheme – anyone got an idea on how this works. Delay repay ok for delays over 15 minutes with exception of reduced payments BUT SWR only operating about 53% of trains within 5 minutes but SWT operated around 82% within 5 minutes. Isn’t this a breach of the Sale of Goods Act and how do I get compensated for all the other delays that SWR introduced. I still wish they’d resign as they don’t seem fit and proper to operate a franchise.