/ Travel & Leisure

Do you suffer through train hell?

Train station

Many of you will know of our campaign and subsequent super-complaint to improve the compensation system on the railways, but what’s happening now? 

After repeatedly finding in our annual satisfaction survey that rail passengers were not necessarily aware or easily able to access compensation for train delays and cancellations, in December 2015, we made a super-complaint to the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.

We called for the industry to deliver improvements. So far, these haven’t been consistently forthcoming.

One of the other concerns that has been repeatedly raised with us is the ticketing system.

In the second half of 2016, we worked quietly behind the scenes with the rail industry, including the Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, to agree an action plan that will start to make improvements to the needlessly complicated system.

This was announced at an event we co-chaired with the minister in December.

The rail industry now has until December this year to implement the actions it agreed to on ticketing reforms. And we’ll need to see much more action on improving the compensation system over the next year, too.

Action needed

But that is just the start of the changes that must come through to make the system work better for those of us who use it.

We’ve gone from a summer of discontent to a winter of misery on the railways, and we’ve now reached the end of the line.

Passengers are still suffering with rail services that don’t always deliver on the basics. They’re being packed onto trains with fewer carriages, with little or no explanation. They’re paying more, but still arriving at their destination late and frustrated. And they’re telling us they really aren’t getting value for money and delays are costing them dearly, from added stress to job losses.

This is completely unacceptable.

This country needs a rail service that puts passengers’ rights first and consistently complies with consumer law. Passenger complaints shouldn’t fall on deaf ears, and the train companies should listen and change.

Next steps

Today we’ve launched our new rail campaign. Over the next year, we’ll be holding the industry to account over the plans it has agreed with us on ticketing and the commitments it has made on compensation.

But the sector as a whole needs to do more to clean up its act.

There needs to be an independent, mandatory ombudsman that is underpinned in law. The rail regulator must change and be given real teeth. The industry should be clearly complying with its obligations under consumer protection law, and passengers should be able to easily claim compensation when this is breached.

But all of this will only go so far. Wider reforms are needed, and swiftly, to ensure that passengers are put first.

We deserve trains that run for passengers, not just the industry.


I would think more people are fed up with strikes than late trains.

Not being able to get to work and maybe losing wages, having to find a maybe expensive alternative to get to an airport for that hard-earned holiday, having to miss an appointment that might have been booked months in advance, the bad impression it gives to tourists and visitors, the list is endless.

I agree alfa. The use of strikes that cause huge disruption to your fellows is out of all proportion. Akin to blackmail. If Thameslink and other railways can safely run trains with driver-controlled doors then that undermines the RMT’s credibility. However, all those involved should behave like responsible grown-ups, forget exercising their power, and work out a sensible solution. That might, for example, be giving drivers responsibility for doors on shorter trains, but not on longer ones, and maybe not at peak times, if it is genuinely shown to be too difficult. Or allow them more time to check and close doors; close doors in batches rather than all at one, give them bigger screens………A solution will emerge but the sooner the better.

I travel daily on Southern and can confirm that everything listed by alfa would be happening (and was happening) regardless of the industrial action.

People were suffering for years before this all started and nothing was addressed- the dispute could end this evening and the service would still be a total shambles with no fix in sight.

As Darren has stated, complaints fall on deaf ears – the industry just doesn’t work for passengers and needs serious reform.

Will that happen? Well, prices have just gone up.

I worked in London from various locations in and outside London pre-internet when passengers had no collective voice. Frequently an hour journey could become a three hour journey.

Even then, there were many cancelled and late trains, carriages so full you had to wait for the next train (mostly on the tube, but it meant you could miss your mainline train), so packed you were kept on your feet by surrounding bodies, so what is so different now?

Not owning a car in my younger days, I would rather a train turned up late than not at all.

As for prices going up, compensation has to be paid for.

Those awful conditions have since deteriorated further. Commutes have gone from ‘just about tolerable’ to completely unacceptable, while all the while people are forced to pay more and more for an atrocious service that gets worse by the year.

Just because it was bad before doesn’t make it acceptable now – people are at the end of their tethers and the impact on lives is very real. The conditions in and out of London for the last few years could well kill someone soon – passengers are finally making a stand that’s desperately needed.

As for the suggestion that prices should go up to fund compensation, that would mean that already ripped-off passengers are also penalised for the poor performance of a private (and profitable) company! The current set-up just doesn’t work.

Those other neglected commuters- commuting by car – are facing cost increases of 5 times rail commuters and putting up with increasing delays on ever more congested roads. One or two answers are to avoid commuting where possible (work nearer home), move businesses and public providers out of the most congested areas to ones that are less so, and stagger working hours. As long as people expect travel in a concentrated time period to improve, well it won’t. Something more imaginative needs to be done, by both sides.

At least some movement (hopefully in the literal sense also) seems to have taken place in the Southern rail problem.

South West trains have introduced harsh new time restrictions this January on SuperOffpeak fares at weekends, making the train fare for a day out in London typically 30% higher (unless you get there before 9:30 or after 12). Yet they claim you are saving money.

I am not a regular train user and have been generally very happy with local train services, but I very much sympathise with those who have to cope with inadequate services.

Having moved home last year, my concern is about prices. To travel by train I would need to use a connecting train for a journey of 10 miles in addition to the familiar journey of 60 miles. That triples the price, though if I was to buy the tickets for the two journeys separately, it would just double the price. No wonder I’m fond of car sharing and park & ride schemes.

Oops. I meant to post this in the other Convo that was active today: https://conversation.which.co.uk/travel-leisure/rail-ticketing-summit-paul-maynard-dft/

Sorry about that.

Delay repay can be really delayed – I claimed from Northern on 8 October and got a reply on 18 January. Incidentally your website says you can only claim after 60 minutes – this changed with the new Northern franchise last April.

That’s a long wait David… was your claim successful? Where have you seen the error on our site? I’ll make sure that’s updated

I travel on tfl, Southern, Southeastern, and the Underground quite regularly. The only problem on these is at rush hour when thousands and thousands travel into London at the same time. As a lot of the people work on computers why don’t they work from home or in regional centres. It would be much easier to dig narrow trenches along pavements to install fibreglass cables than knock down swathes of houses to add more and more railways and roads thus increasing pollution and bringing forward the time when the polar ice caps melt and Mother Nature will have to do a quick change in evolution by adding gills to the future generations.
The proposed HS2 is a case in point, who wants to get to Birmingham twenty minutes faster, who, in their right mind would want to go to Birmingham anyway!

Feb 2017 edition, p37 . “How can I do it”. splitticketing.co.uk and trainsplit.com – surely the same web site/database?

The recent strikes on Southern have just served to make a bad situation totally impossible. From Dec 2015 onwards trains were regularly being cancelled due to ‘lack of train crew’. During the summer last year all services on the West London line via Shepherds Bush were intermittent, one day they would run, the next no service at all. I’m told as I travel using a TFL travelcards on Oyster there is no point even trying to claim compensation as it will be automatically rejected, apparently because I can use other routes (e.g tube and buses, which doubles my journey time). I don’t want compensation, though, I just want a reliable service to get me to work which runs on time and has available seats at least some of the time. Given I pay £200 a month it doesn’t seem too much to ask.

I tried to claim consequential losses from GTR – and I was told that they are not subject to the CRA. When I pushed the topic I was referred to the Legal Manager of the Go Ahead group and was given the address for their legal department if I wanted to progress legal proceedings.

I also tried London Trvael Watch – and was told by them that rail companies are not subject to the CRA under the National Conditions of Carriage.

I have all this in email.


It’s about time the Office of Rail and Roads [the regulatory body and national consumer representative] called all the rail bosses in for a ticking-off. I am astonished at London Travel Watch’s ignorance.

Neil pelling says:
15 May 2017

I have issues with paying extremely high fares for trains that are obviously inadequate for purpose. The cross country and Northern rail franchise use stock that is often dangerously overcrowded and in northern rails case totally out of date. Yet in both cases the costs are extremely overpriced. Standing cramped in a carriage with nowhere to put your luggage for over 90 minutes is totally unreasonable on the Manchester to New St train at £84 a go.

I live in Scotland and the ScotRail service on my route is actually not too bad. But I was in Manchester a couple of weeks ago waiting for a train to Edinburgh from Oxford Road Station. Train after train was being cancelled and sure enough when mine was also cancelled that was that. An announcement and an apology. No clue as to how this visitor could get home from the fair city of Manchester. The staff at the station had all mysteriously disappeared and if it wasn’t for some advice that a local gentlemen gave me I would have had no idea that I had to find my way to Victoria to catch a train from there. The help from staff was non existent but what really unsettled me was the way in which the throngs of people at the station just accepted things with a shrug. That tells you how bad things are becoming if people can’t even be bothered to get annoyed any more!

Our local rail service is almost useless. There is one train every 2 to 2.5 hours, consisting of a single carriage. At busy times it is often impossible to get on. People are packed like sardines and if anyone needs to get off at a stop all the standing passengers have to get off to allow them to pass. On some occasions people have been left standing on platforms as there is no room. The carriages are ancient as well. I have often complained and have been told that there is no money for an extra carriage. This I cannot believe when so much money is being poured into HS1&2. I do not live in the far north of Scotland. Although it is a branch line, our station is on the line from Newark ( a busy junction on the main East coast route) to Lincoln and Grimsby. I realize that these 2 cities are not on a main route to other parts of the country but they are sizeable places, warranting a better and more frequent service.

Possibly out of date but a gripe I have had for some time, I never had a satisfactory letter of apology.
It was May 1988, I was on a bicycle tour of Central Wales. I had travelled from Bournemouth to Avonmouth with my bicycle then spent six days touring the Berwyn Mountains. Having spent the last night at Slimbridge Youth Hostel I cycled to Temple Meads at Bristol. As I went to put my cycle into the guards van I was told in a ‘rough way’ that cycles were no longer permitted on trains. I explained that I had already done the first part of my journey and was now using the return ticket (which included my bicycle). Again I was informed of the no cycle ruling. When I explained that I had to be at Bournemouth Fire Station for the day shift in the morning I was told (“Well you’d f*****g better start pedalling now mate”.) with no alternative choice I set off and arrived at work 30 minutes late. It had taken all night, I had all my heavy touring stuff with me plus some presents – I certainly wasn’t expecting a journey of 120 miles.
My complaint was dealt with by way of a return ticket being the refund to be used at any time.
That cycle ban was in place for some years and my Cycling Club (CTC) eventually negotiated with the railways to the crazy arrangement we have today.