/ 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

Kevin Wagstaff says:
28 February 2017

Myself and a friend booked 2 return tickets to London from Coventry with Midland rail, when we got to Euston station 20 minutes before our booked return trains departure we noticed the board saying that only Virgin train tickets were accepted on said train! We had to buy additional tickets to board, and the employee that we brought them from said that this was a common scam that companies do to force customers to buy additional tickets! We were one of 3 different people to have to do the same thing in that short space of time that we were around these employees checking/selling tickets. We contacted Midland rail to which they told us that we needed to check the small print for that particular train time, as it stated it was a virgin train ticket only! They were happy to take our money for a service that wasn’t available though! So we actually gave them money for absolutely nothing! They offered us a free journey each so long as we took it in 14 days! How can they advertise and charge for a train that you can’t actually board?? Then say it was our fault that we didn’t check small print?? It’s like buying and paying for a coffee to be told you have to get it from the shop next door and when you get there they say that you have to pay them for it as well!!

George says:
28 February 2017

Anyone know if the same law applies to buses, in my last job I lost over two thousand in missed wages and the job itself through my bus always being 20 minutes to half an hour late

How frequent were the buses?

anne twohey says:
28 February 2017

I feel I could write a book of our bus/train journey, it would be quite good on live stage funny to see but not very for the people involved on the day.

M & J Noonan says:
28 February 2017

We were delayed over 2 hours whilst travelling to Birmingham Airport. Whilst Cross Country Trains were very quick to offer a refund for our journey and offered a complimentary return train journey, they cited their passenger charter to refuse reimbursement for replacement flights and hotel costs. We had our boarding passes and should have arrived over 2 hours before our Ryanair flight was scheduled to leave. They stated that we should have planned to arrive 2 hours before the last check in time, irrespective of the fact that we had already checked in.

It does not seem unreasonable to leave ample time before check in, just as you should if you were driving yourself to the airport. Bag drop closes 40 mins before departure, delays will occur at security, so even a modest delay could give you a problem. But then I’ve always erred on the safe side when faced with fixed-time deadlines – just in case.

This is another great consumer initiative by Which. Although I unreservedly condemn the RMT for its totally irresponsible and disproportionate Southern line strikes that demonstrably are not justifiable on the basis of ‘passenger safety’, it is outrageous that Govia/Southern try to avoid reimbursing passengers for cancelled and massively delayed and overcrowded trains.

R Burnham says:
28 February 2017

Last time I wrote to South West Trains setting out my request for a claim under the Consumer Rights Act they ignored all my references to implied terms of the act and threatened me with a cost order if I issued proceedings, despite it being a small claims matter.
They simply do not understand the new laws.

Kremmen says:
28 February 2017

GWR have a ploy. The trains that run from Reading to Paddington, non stop, evening peak, significantly outnumber the all stations trains.
When there is an issue they always convert some stopping trains into express trains so they get to Paddington on time or significantly earlier than they would have done.
This ploy presumably increases their punctuality figures, but, it turns the next stopper into a real cattle truck. Plus that cattle truck runs considerably slower due to excess alighting and boarding time.
They obviously don’t care.

I completely agree
GWR also do not pay compensation to commuters.
They are the unacceptable face of capitalism
They run dirty, late, crowded and very expensive trains.
Every year fares leap up.
I wish that they could be stripped of their franchise

GWR have an even better ploy. They do not reply to any requests for refunds or other queries about ticketing problems.
I have been waiting since November for them to authorise repayment for a fare. There appears to be no point in emailing them. I have difficulty using the telephone (I was kept on hold for 30 minutes) but then a lovely lady told me I could change my booking for a fee, as advertised on the ticket, and reclaim any additional ticket cost later (it’s a rather complicated story). That was the last I heard, despite multiple emails and attempted phone calls, even a letter.
I understand GWR is having major problems since it moved its customer services office. Has anyone else heard about this?

This weekend chaos on return trip Cardiff — Edinburgh Train delayed 90 minutes into Birmingham New Street then al Virgin Trains cancelled from there on!
Returning leg Crewe to Cardiff Arriva trains Double Booked our seats Crewe- Cardiff with passengers Crewe- Leominster so had to stand on overcrowded train, the aisle completely blocked with passengers & luggage until got to Leominster when others disembarked

Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, cannot just wash his hands of the appalling service by Southern Trains. It is his own department that issued the franchise, which is in effect a contract. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the train company and the rail unions, if the franchise holder / contractor does not for whatever reason provide the service set out in the contract, it is up to the body that let the contract – the Detartment of Transport – to order the contractor to put things right within a reasonably short time, say a month, and if the service does not match what is required in the contract, the contract should be determined and the service awarded to another train company or better still taken back in house. That is what happened in the case of the East Coast Mainline service – and indeed it was regarded as a great improvement and made money for the Treasury. Only one thing stops Grayling acting as he should: mindless Tory dogma that says that private enterprise is good, public enterprise is bad. Theresa May was right when she said that the Conservatine Party was regarded as the nasty party: it still is! Thank goodness I haven’t commuted to work in London on the Southern network for nearly 20 years.

I’m still awaiting refunds for delayed and cancelled trains from last August onwards with Virgin Eastcoast, shockingly poor customer service, they don’t bother to read the case notes and keep asking for my tickets which were posted to them last year, furthermore, proof of booking is on my account with them

7 months on and still unresolved

I have always found Chiltern Railways very efficient.On a recent journey during the recent storms I reached my destination(Birmingham)safely though late because of safety issues and restrictions.We were fully informed on arrival that compensation could be claimed,but in view of the service that I had received I would not dream of claiming it.Chiltern railways had done everything that they could in adverse conditions.

Dennis Smalley says:
28 February 2017

Sorry but nothing but praise for Virgin.I was on a train from Kings Cross to Hull when someone threw themselves under the train,the train staff gave every passenger a claim form and I was compensated within 2 weeks.

Andrew Richards says:
28 February 2017

I recently travelled on a Virgin Train on a Saturday evening that was running late due to overhead wire problems at Rugby. The assistance I received could not be faulted. It was the last train to Manchester which meant I had to change train at Stafford to travel through to Macclesfield. This connection was missed by about an hour. I was the only passenger on the train travelling to Macclesfield. Virgin Trains laid on a taxi, at their expense, for me from Stafford to Macclesfield. I applied on line for a refund, it wouldn’t be automatic as two train companies were involved, on the Sunday morning and a cheque was received in Thursday’s post for the full cost of the ticket.

M Cooke says:
28 February 2017

I use Chiltern very regularly. They are very good and punctual. On the few occasions where here have been delays they have informed us of claim routes and when I have claimed it has been very rapidly dealt with by the appropriate refund.

When we went to France by Eurostar and there was a problem, the staff gave out compensation forms as we left the train.
When I went to Scotland with East Coast and the train was over 2 hours late, I was the only one who stopped off to get a form, despite me telling others from the train. The staff member was very grumpy and tried to say I was not entitled! I knew my rights.

Dian Elvin says:
28 February 2017

1. The worst train problem happened to my husband on a train from Hanborough (our local station) to London, Paddington. We found seats in the centre of the carriage (we had booked the seats). There was a foreign lady – rather large – sitting in the seat we had booked but we sat in two other seats. She had an enormous heavy suitcase with her and looked helpless when she tried to lift it to get out, so my husband offered to carry it out for her (someone must have helped her halfway along the carriage with this). He placed it on the platform and turned round to re-enter the train, but as he was stepping up into the train, the door closed on his head and his head hurt for some time after this. He had to force the door open with all his strength. The driver/guard(?) should have noticed that he was entering the train, but better still train doors should have the ability to re-open if something (someone) gets stuck.

2. We have twice had to get out of a train in Oxford when it was cancelled. This was last year.

3. We were seeing off a Japanese visitor earlier this year. We aimed for a certain time of train (advertised for, say 4.30) and found that it would be late, then it was advertised as being a great deal later, so we took him for a cup of coffee at the nearest pub. When we came back, the previously advertised second train was now going to be ten minutes late, then they changed it to about twenty minutes late. We thought of going for a walk for twenty minutes, but the signboard then told us the train would, after all, arrive ten minutes later. Our Japanese visitor did not say anything, but we know that Japanese trains are well run and always on time. We saw him off, and felt quite ashamed of the service (GWR). We have avoided travelling by train since, although friends have found them to be running on time more often recently.

I’ve had lots of problems virtually every time I’ve needed to use trains. Such as booked seats not being available so ended up standing.
To solve this problem of double booking seats, any passengers who have booked a seat and not found it available should be entitled to get back off the train and get a taxi to their destination at the expense of the train company.
If the train companies found themselves paying for loads of taxis I bet they’d ensure that booked seats would always be available when boarding the train.

When I had reason to claim for a horrendous journey home from Liverpool to Darlington last year, TransPennine Express reimbursed me my full fare and also cost of taxi to my house.
This was paid in a very reasonable time so I can only praise them fully

I had to stand all the way of my train journey on a passenger packed train from London to Manchester. Very uncomfortable standing without any support amongst other passengers in the isle between the sets of seats. I was in pain overnight as a knee became inflamed and the pain was such that I went to hospital straight away in the morning having suffered a night without sleep.

I continue to be restricted and any walk beyond circa 400 yards, or standing for a relatively short period of time particularly in a crowd, adds to my discomfort. I did not make a complaint but I am much more carefull now to ensure I can pre-book a seat. But, this is not always available if a need to travel is in short notice.

I am sorry but I don’t use the train, that much but I am very pleased with which delivery to every body including the GOVERMENT, when it matters most, well WHICH.