/ 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

Loading ... Loading ...
Peter Jordan says:
7 April 2016

Why are different companies allowed to havr differing compensation schemes? Clearly an intercity and commuter service should have different regimes, but why do comparable commuter services have different regimes – e.g. Southern and South West Trains. SWT has an especially poor scheme for season ticket holders

The answer is that in the heady days of de-nationalisation the government wanted to get every line or network under a different operator doing things their own way believing [wrongly as it turned out] that (a) that was better for competition, and (b) was what passengers wanted.

It led to a race to the bottom in service standards as franchise requirements were stripped to the bone and almost anything system-wide was ripped out except for a handful of what were dubiously called ‘network benefits’ which, with the exception of railcards, hardly anybody can now remember or even recognise as such. Service quality is back on the agenda now after some embarrassing episodes but it is still far from being a coherent railway system.

This Conversation must be intriguing to viewers in Northern Ireland which still has a state-run vertically-integrated railway operation.

The problem with privatisation is that passengers are “customers” and get treated like you are shopping at Netto – an inconvenience to be endured. What is needed is a NATIONAL train service operated by one British company not individual companies from other countries who make noises about working together but claim compensation from each other for delays and will not allow a 2 minute delay to “their” service to allow passengers to make their (pre booked) connection. In the early years of investment and growth the individual companies even lifted points at junctions to stop other companies using their lines. That may be when individual companies owned their own tracks and allowed other companies to run over them – if it did not benefit the opposition. Do we want to return to those days? Today some operators expect (and get) favourable treatment at the detriment to other companies – usually local ones which feed the main line services. One company would also remove the need for dozens of directors and duplicated departments and the associated costs and allow staff to be retained in passenger facing areas. The biggest difference between train and bus services is that train travel usually involves longer distances and is, therefore, more intimidating requiring Staff to provide assistance and guidance. Currently staffing levels are so low, if there are any, that the Staff are under constant pressure from passengers – who often ask every person in a uniform on a Station where their train leaves from after checking the Departure Boards themselves so no wonder some are thought to be unconcerned. And this will only get worse under privatised railways as the only way they can save money is to remove the Staff that look after the passengers and their safety because Staff and Safety – yours – is expensive!
(Yes, I am a retired Train Conductor.)

In 2008 I got a Virgin train from London to Glasgow. At Preston there was a signalling problem between Preston and Lancaster and we had to be ferried to Lancaster by bus. This resulted in a three hour delay. I got back to London three weeks later, got a claim form at Euston, filled it in and a couple of weeks later got a cheque for £40. As my advance ticket was £39.30 the extra 70 p must have been compensation, or their cheque writing machine couldn’t be bothered about pennies!
As regards people bleating about nationalising the railways again, I used to commute out of London in the early 70’s when BR used to strike on a Thursday/Friday, it was not much fun and I can’t recall much cap doffing from the platform staff.
Any investment came from the Exchequer and there was not much done as regards modernisation. If they were to be renationalised would it be done by PFI? You only have to look at some of the problems that the NHS has to see what the ticket prices would be.

In January this year I tried to buy tickets on line from Southwest Trains. During the tranaction their website failed and I was advised by them to buy my ticket from another supplier, which I did. Later I discovered I had been charged by Southwest Trains for my ticket as well as being charged by the different supplier.
I complained to Southwest Trains in January and asked for a refund. It’s now April and I am still waiting for a refund despite my chasing them up several times and my complaint being past around to three or four separate departments within Southwest Trains.
It’s a pity that customer choice can’t let me travel with a different train company from my home town.

Money back please.

Train fares are going up faster than ever.
its time to bring them down to match the wages others are getting before they really can’t put other out of work because of there greed .

Recently travelling in Japan between Tokyo and Kyoto on the Bullet train we were delayed by about two hours because there had been a heavy snow slide blocking the line. Food and drinks were served and we were frequently updated on the situation with announcements. When we arrived in Kyoto about 100 people went to the ticket office and were promptly refunded their fares in cash in exchange for their ticket stub. This was done very quickly and in a friendly manner. The queue of 100 people took less than 10 minutes to clear.

It was all so simple, friendly and customer oriented. Why cannot railway companies in the UK treat their customers in a similar way? It is not hard, it is attitude.

That sounds very good, Hugh, but I don’t want to have to go to Kyoto every time there is a delay on my train to Norwich!

Every few years one or other of our train companies tells us that they are sending some of their people to Japan to witness their high standards of railway operation and customer care with a view to making improvements at home. It must be classed as excess baggage because this knowledge doesn’t seem to complete the journey back to Britain.

When passenger buy their tickets, some would pay by credit or debit cards and some by cash, whichever method is used, the rail companies get solid money which they use as they like. The same method should and must be applied to compensate hard working rail cummuters so they can use their monies as it is convenient for them. The bosses of most rail companies should travel at peak times to experience the delays, crowded and smelly trains and most importantly, give up their high salaries and bonuses until they provide decent service fit for the 21st century.

Well done, Which? superb as ever

Congratulations and well done Which? Thanks for championing our cause as the ombudsman seems to be in a perpetual sleep!

Rail delay compensation should only depend on the length of the delay and not how much you pay for the ticket: a one hour delay is one hour time lost irrespective of how much you paid. The EU has set air delay compensation on this principle. So why not railways?

. . . Indeed, why not? – at the National Living Wage hourly rate?

London Midland definitely needs to improve its rail passenger refund/compensation scheme. Having had the misfortune to have to use the convoluted process on a number of occasions, I can say that the process needs to become far more user friendly and customer orientated, and automated to allow the customer to easily receive the refunds and compensation they rightly deserve.
London Midland currently hides behind a process that is not fit for purpose, which due to the difficulty and complexity of using the said process means the customer is put off claiming a refund or compensation, which in turn saves the company millions of pounds each year.

I would like to know about foreign trains procruement in Britain and understand we subside them which makes the fares so high.

D J Matthews says:
8 April 2016

Why not make it automatic?

Good news about Virgin! Let’s hope the other rail companies follow suit soon!

I don’t think Virgin were the first but their PR machine is much slicker and more ego-boosting.

Unsubscribing seems difficult without making a comment

In fact it seems I cannot unsubscribe. Why?

Hello PIY – I expect you will get an official answer to your questions after the weekend. In the meantime, you don’t seem to have registered as a Which? Conversation contributor so there is nothing to unsubscribe from. You can carry on reading the topics, and carry on commenting if you wish but you will have to enter your details each time, or you can just pretend it doesn’t exist and never open it again. For more directed help, click on “Need help?” on the ribbon at the top of the page and select the “Get in touch” option.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thank goodness for that. People are treated like cattle in most trains as it is. Any miss haps should be considered a amendment on the spot of refund to the traveller as the tickets conductor catches a none paying traveler on the blasted train 🚂

A little update for everyone, Joan Ryan MP endorsed our campaign to Make Rail Refunds Easier when delivering a speech to Parliament yesterday on rail delays and compensation

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Labour MP for Enfield North stated that:
‘Members of the public are shocked when they learn that train operators can actually make a profit from Network Rail failures.

‘If trains are delayed and cancelled and the responsibility lies with Network Rail, for instance when points don’t work or power fails, then Network Rail makes compensation payments to the train operators.

‘But train operators are not obliged to reinvest any of this money in services for the benefit of passengers and the payments received from Network Rail bear no relation whatsoever to the passenger compensation schemes between the train operators and their customers.’

Yes that sums it up nicely, but we’ve been saying that on here for years to no avail.

I would rather see unspent compensation provision remain with Network Rail than end up in the pockets of the train operating companies.

I am sick of my Great Northern/Thameslink quibbling over refunds, and making me add all my details every time I make a claim. They have all my details and I have an account. It’s not worth the effort for £4-£9 a time. They also used to announce, in the past, that they “offer” delay-repay.

Most delays are caused by signal or track failures. These are not train operators fault they are down to track maintenance by network rail. Network Rail is a government owned body and that is who the train ops claim your refunds from.

Other delays are caused by train crews not being in position due to trains held up by the signal or track failures. A vicious circle.

This comment was removed at the request of the user