/ Travel & Leisure

Update: Rail regulator confirms compensation for delays is in a sorry state

Train station

The regulator responds to our super-complaint on issues with compensation for rail delays, and found a situation worse than even we expected. So what happens now?

It’s shocking, but not surprising to us, that the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found that 80% of passengers aren’t claiming when they are entitled to compensation for a rail delay.

In December 2015, we used our legal powers to lodge a super-complaint with the ORR calling for an urgent investigation into the behaviors and practices of train operating companies. After the backing of more than 40,000 of our campaign supporters, the ORR has now responded to our super-complaint.

The ORR agreed with the concerns we raised in our super-complaint (PDF) and has set out actions that are a short-term step in the right direction to resolve the problems passengers are facing.

More action needed

The ORR’s report found that train companies need to be doing much more than they are to help passengers get a refund when they’re entitled to one.

Just as we found, the ORR also saw some rail companies are doing better.

However, this is outweighed by some rather shocking findings of practices exposed.

One train company confessed in the ORR’s report that it’s not in its best interest to promote compensation to its passengers.

Three other train companies scored a dismal ZERO on ORR’s mystery shop of staff and failed to provide full and accurate information to passengers seeking to claim compensation.

Both findings paint a grim picture of the attitudes to compensation in the sector and seriousness of the problems passengers are facing.

Next steps for the campaign

The announcement is a win for everyone who has backed our campaign to Make Rail Refunds Easier. The pressure is now on the train companies to show they can bring about urgently needed basic improvements for their customers.

Where train companies have been found breaching consumer law and licence conditions, the ORR must take enforcement action without delay.

However, this alone won’t do. The problem must be solved for the long-term. The Government must now ensure that the rail regulator has all the powers necessary to be a watchdog with real teeth to put passengers at the heart of this system.

What do you think of the regulator’s announcement?

[UPDATE 29 MARCH 2016] Our analysis of ten years of Transport Focus data has found that passenger satisfaction has seen little meaningful improvement.

According to official Transport Focus data, passenger satisfaction with value for money has risen by only 7%, from 41% to 48%. Commuters expressed the lowest satisfaction at only 34%, which was an improvement of just 7%. Business passenger satisfaction had risen from 41% to 47%, and leisure travellers from 58% to 64%.

What’s more is passengers saw even less of an improvement to the way delays have been handled, with only a 4% rise in satisfaction. While satisfaction has seen little change, fares have risen by 54% over the decade.

Are rail companies doing enough to compensate passengers for delays?

No (91%, 3,180 Votes)

Don't know (6%, 208 Votes)

Yes (3%, 93 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,481

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I was on a train from Birmingham to Gloucester which had to be deviated. The train manager apologised for the lateness saying that it was 59 minutes late. It was about 63 minutes late. I got a claim form from the booking office, claimed and got a refund. I don’t know about the other passengers.

Paul says:
19 March 2016

South West Trains do. They are very clear about this.

South West Trains has multiple ways of not paying out compensation! Delay has to be over one hour (not 30 mins like most other operators), there are then multiple exemptions which mean that a tree blown onto a track for example cannot be claimed for as it is an extreme event outside control of industry. I made an FOI request for total compensation received by Network Rail and total paid by SWT. This was ignored so can I only assume company PROFIT from delays. As its almost impossible to make a claim company no longer bother to provide shuttle services either side of affected area or replacement road transport as was the case prior to 2007.

This is why I will not allow printer companies to update my computer because they will prevent me from using ink cartridges of my choice thereby interfering with my free will. Yours the recycled teenager

Why are the trains allowed to get away with this. I like a lot of people who use the trains. Have not got time to fill forms in. As That would make me twice as late. They now who has travelled on the late trains. Why can it not be done when we hand our tickets in to leave the station.

I made a claim weeks ago against Southern Rail and despite email reminders I have never received payment by way of compensation!

We tried to claim delay compensation some time back from Virgin East Coast. However, you can only claim by internet by sending a photo of your ticket. This rules out many older travellers who don`t have the facilities.
Anyone should be allowed to claim by post, phone, or from the rail stations.

David O'Brien says:
21 March 2016

Well done to those who have written to say they have got compensation then you are the lucky, very persistent 20% or maybe even rail company stooges. Any monies not paid to bona fide customers should be returned to the Government or persistent lateness should result in fines. Claiming compensation should be as easy as buying a ticket and completely standardised.
If timetables rely on tired old rolling stock or face service cancellation because the only driver has the flu they may seem to be OK excuses but only for the Titfield Thunderbolt not a train operating company. If a tree or branch falls on the line that may have something to do with Network Rail not the TOC as often it is the result of poor inspection and maintenance of the infrastructure. I am sure Network Rail follow up public liability and negligence claims where cancellations and disruptions to service are caused by a third party.
It seems like this passenger compensation farce is a hidden form of British taxpayers’ subsidy to the multi national owned TOC’s.

Something should be done about the scandal of travel disrupted by unnecessary and quite frankly bogus so-called “engineering work”; every weekend travel is disrupted and the work is never completed; for a year up to the Olympics we had no trains at weekends because they were supposedly “extending platforms to accomodate 12-car trains” but we have had no such trains at all!

I expect your new trains are still being manufactured, but the platforms have to be lengthened before they can be introduced.

Martin says:
21 March 2016

I am a season ticket holder and I thought I would not be able to get a refund as I do not have a ticket stating the time of purchase hence anticipated time of travel. Could I be wrong?

Hi Martin

Have a look on the website for the train operator concerned or check at the booking office or with the conductor on the train if your ticket is checked
London Midland offered vouchers a few years ago that were valid on trains within their area
It meant you could travel as far as London Euston or Liverpool Lime St
The service had been appalling for the whole of January that year
It is not much better now
Last Wednesday I had to stand from Worcester to Birmingham because the train was overcrowded
There should have been 4 carriages. There were 2!! I understand this is a daily occurrence on trains that leave Worcester at 10.24 and 11.24 every day Monday to Friday. Overcrowding needs to be resolved as well as punctuality & reliability

Although I obtained a voucher for delay I never used this voucher as it could only be used at a station and not online.

East Midlands Trains use a PDF for their Delay Repay form. My son has no printer so cannot sign the form on his mobile phone. He could not save the form he had filled out so reapplied later on a friend’s computer that had a printer. He had to print his signed form, scan it, take a photo of his ticket and attach form and photo on email. The delay was on 19th March, the eMail to East Midlands Trains was sent on 22nd March, he has had no confirmation that his email was received even four days later AND the Delay Repay form has a tick box that has to be marked if the complainant does NOT wish to have further marketing using his details!

I raised this with the ORR via my MP some time ago, advising what a nice little earner this is for the Train Operating Companies. ORR just said that there was a compensation system in place (something I had already noted in my original email advising where it didn’t work properly).
NR pay compensation automatically to the TOCs (set formulas). NR can claim it back from any contractors who caused the delay but I don’t think they do so very often (involves quite a lot of argument, work & effort). TOCs use various methods to deter people using any compensation (vouchers, cannot use on line, etc) and people forget or may not travel again with that TOC, or whatever. Result – TOCs receive more than they pay – quids in. Something many have known for years – seemingly not the ORR.
No doubt they will claim this as an initiative of their own.
Years ago I worked with some Civil Servants. They said any ideas from the plebs were taken away, reviewed over some months and then came out as a higher level initiative.

john says:
8 April 2016

Why cant the money just go straight into the bank account? Id still rather have national rail vouchers that has a cash value ie change given. But also designed in a way that can be used should you find yourself able to make an advanced booking and should you then be owed money you have a cash value credited to your account or have the option of having that put straight into your bank account.

On 03/03/16 wrote about poor service at Kings Cross for Great Northern trains. 15 days later they replied then 4 days after sent £10 as a goodwill gesture. Complain using snail mail and thank you, Which? for alerting Govia Thameslink to customer unhappiness.

Hello everyone, we’ve had a win for our campaign today as Virgin Trains have announced that they will now offer cash refunds for delayed east and west coast services as the default option. Back in December, when we launched our rail campaign, we called on all train companies to offer cash refunds as a first option for delayed passengers, instead of rail vouchers.

That’s very good news. I would like to see rail vouchers retained as a second option provided (a) they are at a higher value than the cash refund [to reflect processing costs and the lower redemption propensity], and (b) they can be used on any operator’s services.

Congratulations Consumer Association! I very good result and let us see my local company, “Great Western Railway” live up to that name and offer the same – or even better deal! As a by the way, traveling on a First Great Western Bus service the other day, I noticed a brief advertisement from the company announcing refunds for delays on their Busses!! Did i read that right? In my Town we have often had appalling failure by First to provide anything like the advertised service and then by bone shaking, sometimes fume filled, noisy busses. But recently, the quality of busses (and some of the driving too!) has improved and I twice caught busses running almost exactly to time! Which is certainly making a difference and things are looking up on public transport.

Elaine Povey says:
7 April 2016

Excellent – well done for your work in achieving the correct outcome. Thank you.

John says:
7 April 2016

No vouchers. Just the money back. Vouchers are no use if you do not use the train operator again.

We need to bear in mind that a high percentage of non-season ticket fares are paid by customers without having to give any details of their name and address [or payment card details if using cash] so claim forms will still be necessary and should be available on every train and at every station if possible [this might be difficult at unstaffed stations] as well as on-line. The wary passenger has a few claim forms in their drawer at home just in case they get home late because of a serious delay. Where a payment card has been used the compensation payment could be automatic as a reversal of the payment. I don’t know if Virgin Trains will be doing that or will be sending out cheques which will require a name and address in every case.

Make delay repayments “easier” — how about “automatic”.

Now that is a good idea!

I’d be happy to receive vouchers as compensation if, in return, they allow me to pay for my rail tickets in general with vouchers as well, eg luncheon vouchers

That’s pushing it a touch too far I feel, Moggie63 – luncheon vultures are not deemed to be negotiable instruments any more than Nectar points or a Persil coupon are. I like the idea though.

Jez says:
7 April 2016

This is the reason I don’t take trains anymore. Too expensive, too unreliable and all they really want is your money without supplying the service they are being paid for. Why don’t they charge less like every other country and supply a better service, not hard eh?

Surely this should apply across the board and not just to rail travel. That said one aspect of compensation which is certainly getting me down is the damage to vehicles caused by potholes. Edinburgh recently claimed that the millions generated by parking charges were being ploughed back into the city infrastructure but they appear to be doing nothing about the pothole situation .

I agree with you there Anthony – it should be compulsory for all parking enforcement surpluses to be spent on repairing the highways in the first instance .

well done Which? the standard bearer for consumers. Did you wake up the Ombudsman in his long years of sleep? This injustice would never be solved without Which?
Thank you a million.

Steady on Ibrahim – it’s only on a few routes at the moment, but it is due to be come a nationwide process later this year I believe.