Fares, rail policy and DfT news

21.12.16

MPs launch Rail Ombudsman Bill following Southern disruption

MPs have called for an Ombudsman to oversee the rail industry following the chaos on Southern Rail.

Southern services have been severely delayed throughout the year, ultimately forcing it to cancel all trains last week because of an Aslef drivers’ strike.

Introducing the Bill, Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, said the legislation was not “a silver bullet” to resolve the problems on Southern, but would address the compensation system for rail delays, which was “simply not fit for purpose”.

Currently, Network Rail compensates TOCs via schedule 8 payments when something goes wrong on the rail network that causes disruption.

However, operators are not required to pass this money on to passengers. A report, published by the ORR in March in response to a super-complaint by consumer group Which?, said that passengers only claim around 20% of the compensation they are entitled to for delays due to a lack of clear information from companies.

The ORR’s follow-up to the report, published yesterday, found that while some companies have subsequently made it easier to claim compensation, others have only made “minimal changes”.

Vickie Sheriff, director of campaigns and communications at Which?, backed the Rail Ombudsman Bill, saying: “It must be easier to find out how to get compensation and make a claim.

“The regulator should take action if train companies do not make progress quickly and the government must introduce a new mandatory ombudsman so that passenger complaints are properly heard and resolved.”

Under the Bill, penalty fines when a train is cancelled, overruns at a station or is late beyond an agreed threshold would be paid into a central pot, independent of operators. Passengers would then claim centralised compensation directly from the fund.

The pot would also fund a Rail Ombudsman, modelled on the Energy Ombudsman. It would resolve individual complaints, supervise compensation payments, instruct operators to resolve problems which were the subject of frequent complaints, and identify long-term problems within the sector.

The remainder of the money would be used to offset high rail fares, which are set to increase by 2.3% from 1 January.

Loughton called it “extraordinary” that there was currently no ombudsman for rail complaints, saying that it should have been introduced when the Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force on rail.

The Rail Ombudsman Bill is a private members bill introduced under the ten-minute rule, meaning it is unlikely to become law. It was presented by a cross-party group of MPs from constituencies in the Southern route, including Sir Nicholas Soames, the Conservative MP for Mid Sussex; Harriet Harman, the former equalities minister and MP for Camberwell and Peckham; and Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton and leader of the Green party. It will have its next reading on 24 March.

The DfT has already promised that Southern passengers affected by the disruption will be able to claim a month’s fares back, and be eligible for compensation after 15 minutes delay instead of 30.

Campaign for Better Transport has called for passengers to have a right to compensation for poor-quality transport as well as delays.

(Image c. Victoria Jones from PA Wire and PA Images)

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here 

Comments

Jerry Alderson   23/12/2016 at 14:25

RTM: "Campaign for Better Transport has called for passengers to have a right to compensation for poor-quality transport as well as delays." This is a point Railfuture made several years ago. People should not have to pay train-level fares for a bus service. Of course, sometimes the train fare costs much less than the bus, espeically if using a Network railcard, for example. However, the reason Railfuture did not push this in campaigns (apart from the fact that certain refunds are already possible such as people who have bought First Class tickets) is the huge admin overhead of a lot of small claims. With smart ticketing this will be easier to administer. Of course, what campaign groups such as Railfuture, really want is far less bustitution, and that needs TOCs to run trains as far as possible (not just to the nearest convenienly manned station where buses can easily be managed) and for diversionary route to be used where realistic.

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

First Vivarail production train enters final build stage

23/02/2018First Vivarail production train enters final build stage

After a period of radio silence, Vivarail has announced that its long-awaited battery D-Train is in its final build stage and will be in passenger ... more >
Amey manager appointed as TfN’s permanent NPR director

23/02/2018Amey manager appointed as TfN’s permanent NPR director

Transport for the North (TfN) has announced the appointment of its new Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) director. Tim Wood has already successfull... more >
Array of Thameslink failures mean there are ‘critical tests looming’ for HS2

23/02/2018Array of Thameslink failures mean there are ‘critical tests looming’ for HS2

Despite its progress, the Thameslink Programme still faces substantial challenges that must be addressed to ensure successful delivery – an... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Big Rail Diversity Challenge 2018: Exciting details announced

09/02/2018Big Rail Diversity Challenge 2018: Exciting details announced

The first details of this year’s Big Rail Diversity Challenge have been revealed and it’s safe to say the 2018 edition is set to be more thrilling than ever. Last year saw the RTM team attend the second edition in what is quickly becoming Women in Rail’s flagship event, where teams with a 50/50 gender split compete in a ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

NCHSR: The possibilities are limitless

06/02/2018NCHSR: The possibilities are limitless

The National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) has been gifted with a brand-new lab dedicated to surveying and scanning technologies designed t... more >
Keeping Britain's railway on track

06/02/2018Keeping Britain's railway on track

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, argues investment in track maintenance and rail infrastructure is fundam... more >
The Intelligent Infrastructure approach

06/02/2018The Intelligent Infrastructure approach

Network Rail is seeking to improve asset management whilst cutting down on expenditure by implementing a new Intelligent Infrastructure programme... more >
Project Aura: Changing the game

02/02/2018Project Aura: Changing the game

Paul Boyle, head of ERTMS at Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), describes how Project Aura has been revolutionising training across the organisatio... more >

rail industry focus

  • 08/12/2017A game changer for Midland Metro

    The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) updates RTM’s Luana Salles on the latest projects taking place across the growing Midland Metro...
  • 09/11/2017Testing tomorrow's technology today

    David Brazier, site manager and area sales manager for the UK & Ireland at OMICRON electronics, tells RTM’s Luana Salles about the major...
  • 09/11/2017What next for safety?

    As rail businesses edge towards their target of zero injuries, improving safety performance can plateau. Amey’s sector director for rail, Lee...
View all News

interviews

Transforming travel in the north west

06/02/2018Transforming travel in the north west

RTM’s Josh Mines talks to Robin Davis, head of new trains at TransPennine Express (TPE), about the huge rolling stock change journey the co... more >