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.
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.
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.