Today, we’ve revealed that train companies are failing to deal with passenger complaints effectively or sometimes even politely. Given my own experiences, this doesn’t come as a surprise at all.
Between April 2017 to March 2018 there were as many as 500,000 complaints about rail services, and fewer than half of passengers were satisfied with how those complaints were dealt with.
In fact, we’ve found that passengers may not feel that their complaints were handled politely, let alone in a satisfactory way. No surprises here – this is exactly how I felt when I submitted a formal complaint to Southern.
Did you know that first class is permanently declassified on Southern metro services?
Despite the units being marked up with warnings about fines, anyone can sit in a first class compartment and first class tickets are not sold for trains operating on ‘metro’ lines.
This doesn’t sound like much to complain about, but it was clear that not nearly enough people were aware of this positive policy.
I would regularly see elderly passengers and other more vulnerable people standing on packed services, even though ‘first class’ seats were available (and yes, I did try to tell people as often as I could).
When I wrote to Southern about the lack of awareness and asked if it could be promoted at stations, I was completely ignored. It was as if the company hadn’t read my complaint at all, instead sending me back a generic response about industrial action.
— Which? (@WhichUK) November 14, 2018
I was so disappointed at how my enquiry had been handled that I raised it with London Travel Watch. I later received a response that actually matched my queries, but nothing was ever done to boost awareness.
No more fobbing off
There are of course, many more serious matters for passengers to complain about than my slightly different gripe.
We’ve covered disabled access here on Which? Conversation, while communication during disruption and compensation problems are of the utmost importance for passengers. It’s not acceptable that serious matters are being dealt with so poorly.
This is why the incoming independent rail ombudsman is much-needed. It should incentivise train companies to listen to passengers in the first place and, when necessary, step in to make sure passengers get the redress they deserve.
Have you ever submitted a formal complaint to a train company? If so, how do you feel it was dealt with? Was any action taken? I’d be interested to hear your stories.