The wheels are well and truly in motion on our rail campaign and super-complaint. We’ve seen some great progress so far, so it looks like we’re on track and on time, but there’s still more to do…
To bring you up to speed with the campaign, we found widespread problems with our trains in the UK when we conducted research last year. In particular, we found problems are especially bad with rail delays.
Last year around £47m in payouts for delayed passengers went unclaimed. So we launched our campaign to Make Rail Refunds Easier. And using our legal powers we’ve lodged a super-complaint with the regulator for our railways, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
We’d like to see train companies up their game and start improving their services – making passengers aware they’re eligible for a refund and also making that claiming process as straightforward as possible.
We’re not yet two months into the campaign so it’s still early days, but we’ve seen some positive progress so far.
Upping the pressure
More than 40,000 of you have backed the campaign, and many of you have shared your tales of rail fails.
Telling us of troublesome ticket refund procedures, Mat said:
‘I have experience on more than one occasion of my train company refusing to pay valid compensation claims, and underpaying claims. I had to make several calls and send multiple emails to get what I was due, but I wonder how often they get away with underpaying, or not paying at all.’
We’ve also been hearing some good news from Parliament, with the rail Delay Repay scheme being debated last week.
Tom Brake MP, Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington, reiterated our concerns over lack of information on rail delay compensation:
‘Compensation schemes are badly publicised, and it is hard to claim.
‘A Which? survey revealed that only 36% of passengers remembered being informed of their rights after their last delay.
‘That points to a significant problem with train operating companies’ passenger information policies. It implies an unwillingness on the part of companies to make claiming compensation as easy as possible for their customers.’
And Minister for Transport, Claire Perry MP, also welcomed our campaign and agreed that improvements are needed:
‘It is absolutely right that something that is clearly not working for consumers is picked up by Which? —a great organisation—and I have met Which? To discuss the super-complaint.
‘My expectation of what will come out of it is that there will be a clearer understanding of who is ultimately responsible for sanctioning companies that do not pay compensation. Companies do pay compensation: there is very little evidence that they do not pay customers who are entitled to it, but the process is tortuous and much more difficult than it should be. We absolutely expect that, through a combination of the ORR, the Department for Transport and normal consumer measures, the situation will improve.’
A picture far from rosy
So our campaign has made some good progress so far, but the picture for rail passengers remains far from rosy.
The annual National Rail Passenger Survey has revealed that while passenger satisfaction is slightly improving overall, there has been an alarming drop in satisfaction for rail delays. Well, it’s no surprise that passenger satisfaction is dropping when rail passengers are cooped up in overcrowded train carriages, and some even seeking respite in the train loos… looks like a bit of a raw deal don’t you think?
So we’ll be keeping the pressure on to make sure you get the rail service you deserve and pay for.
In the meantime tell us your rail tales. Have you experienced a poor train service recently?
Update 29 March 2016 – ORR responds to Which? super-complaint
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has responded to our super-complaint (PDF) agreeing with our concerns and has set out actions that are a short-term step to resolve the problems passengers are facing.
The announcement is a win for everyone who has backed our campaign, but the pressure is now on the train companies to show they can bring about urgently needed improvements.
Where train companies have been found to breach consumer law and licence conditions, the ORR must take enforcement action without delay. However, the Government must also 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.