/ 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.

Mark says:
18 January 2017

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.