/ Travel & Leisure

Are train companies ignoring your rights?

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It’s now six months since the Consumer Rights Act came into force in the rail industry but train companies are acting as if they are above the law and this is going unchallenged.

This isn’t on. So we’ve written to 24 train companies we’ve found to be breaking consumer law, calling on them to address breaches of consumer protection law that we’ve uncovered.

Rail rights

It’s clear that train companies are failing to properly inform passengers about their rights.

We’ve told train companies that they shouldn’t use confusing and misleading industry-wide terms and conditions as a smokescreen to stop their customers from claiming for consequential losses as a result of poor service.

Under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA), which came into force in the rail industry on 1 October 2016, passengers are entitled to claim for a wide range of problems when a service hasn’t been delivered with ‘reasonable care and skill’ – a wonderfully confusing phrase in itself.

Passengers also have the right to claim for consequential losses that result from a delayed or cancelled train – this might be reasonable costs for missed flights, taxi fares, or extra child-minding fees incurred because of a shoddy rail service.

Sneaky tactics

Now, the rail industry (excluding the Heathrow Express) currently relies on industry-wide terms and conditions called the ‘National Rail Conditions of Travel’.

These undermine passenger rights by unlawfully limiting liability for train companies so they don’t have to pay out compensation in certain circumstances, such as for consequential losses.

This is not in line with consumer law.

Passengers have the right to claim when a train company has caused them to, for example, miss a flight or have to fork out for a taxi when they are left stranded by a cancelled train. From what many of our campaign supporters have told us, this out of pocket expense isn’t all that uncommon either.

Of the 24 train companies, we also believe that 17 aren’t providing enough information on passengers’ new rights on their websites.

Many train companies include references to legal rights for compensation on their websites yet they’ve failed to make it clear that this covers those in the Consumer Rights Act too.

Train companies who are failing to make this clear are potentially in breach of both the CRA as well as other consumer protection law, as it may mislead passengers into thinking they can’t make a claim.

Better rail services

With almost 50,000 people who’ve joined our campaign to demand better rail services, it’s clear that rail passengers expect much more from train companies.

We’ve called on train operators to make changes and respond by Wednesday 1 March.

Train companies urgently need to address the misleading information they’re providing and comply fully with the law.

Have you tried claiming for out of pocket costs as a result of poor service? Does your train company meet your expectations, or do you think it could be doing more?

Email pictures of your train experience to us at: which.campaigns@which.co.uk


It is about time that train companies were stopped from hiding behind ‘terms and conditions’ and that they are not allowed to use these to wriggle out of their legal duty to passengers.

Rail Travel is overpriced
anyone knows that
the fact is that UK rail costs more than other countries
I only use train where no other way is on offer
Rail is a rip off
IF travellers would boycott trains for 7 days it MIGHT force fairer costs
Most folk DO NOTHING they just pay more and like it
that is why it wont change

Unfortunately I no longer have the article or the sources but a recent academic study of rail fares in Great Britain and other major European countries showed that GB fares were generally on a par with comparable journeys and times of travel. Indeed some fares represented exceptionally good value relative to other countries such as advance purchase and off-peak savers. I am a frequent critic of the British rail fare structure with its multitude of anomalies but there was more route flexibility and a more frequent timetable that gave many additional travel options.

I say ‘Great Britain’ and not ‘the UK’ because Northern Ireland has it own railway system operated by the Northern Ireland government and its fares were not covered in the review.

Our railways are much less heavily subsidised than those in major European countries. No one subsidises my travel and I do not see why I should subsidise someone else’s, whether for business, leisure or commuting. There are more worthy causes for scarce taxes to support.

I would like to see freight “encouraged” onto rail by investing in a better road-rail interchange structure, getting polluting and damaging lorries off overcrowded major highways.