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

DfT names five winners of fresh £16m stations fund

28/07/2017DfT names five winners of fresh £16m stations fund

The DfT has today announced the successful bidders for a £16m package, part of the second phase of the New Stations Fund, which will serve ... more >
East Midlands Airport offers £2.5m fund to boost station connections

28/07/2017East Midlands Airport offers £2.5m fund to boost station connections

East Midlands Airport has today offered details of a £2.5m deal designed to improve station services as part of the next franchise in the r... more >
Hitachi Class 800s pass digital signalling testing

28/07/2017Hitachi Class 800s pass digital signalling testing

Hitachi’s new fleet of Intercity Express trains have this week passed testing to run the digital technology required by the DfT. The t... more >

editor's comment

03/07/2017Rapid progress needed

As RTM went to press, the National Infrastructure Commission outlined a list of the ‘top 12’ immediate priorities on which ministers must make rapid progress in the next year. Unsurprisingly, major rail schemes, including HS2, Crossrail 2 and HS3, featured highly in the projects that needed speedy development.  Lord Adonis stated that all of these have been agreed in principle, “but require decisive action to get ... read more >

last word

How do tram and rail passengers compare?

How do tram and rail passengers compare?

David Sidebottom, director at Transport Focus, analyses the drivers in performance of passenger satisfaction in tram compared to rail. Results published in our recent Tram Passenger Survey (... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Londoners given peek at abandoned Mail Rail Underground line

28/07/2017Londoners given peek at abandoned Mail Rail Underground line

Londoners will soon be able to enjoy a unique rail experience – by riding a train going along the disused Mail Rail line. The 6.5-mile track runs deep under the capital, criss-crossing Tube lines and formerly linking six sorting offices with mainline stations at Liverpool Street and Paddington. At most, the small, electric and drive... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

How can the new government support rail freight?

20/07/2017How can the new government support rail freight?

Following the recent general election, Maggie Simpson, executive director at the Rail Freight Group, considers what action the government can tak... more >
Building a sustainable future for rail services in Wales

20/07/2017Building a sustainable future for rail services in Wales

Geoff Ogden, interim managing director at Transport for Wales (TfW), talks to RTM about how the organisation is putting sustainable development a... more >
A potential benchmark for engineering quality and architectural design

20/07/2017A potential benchmark for engineering quality and architectural design

Victoria Hills, chief executive officer at the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), gives RTM an update on the work to create a... more >
Simple changes for energy efficiency

20/07/2017Simple changes for energy efficiency

Michelle Papayannakos, rail sustainability specialist at the RSSB, argues that improving the way energy is managed should be a high priority for ... more >

rail industry focus

View all News

interviews

A game changer for Wales and Borders

17/07/2017A game changer for Wales and Borders

Andy Thomas, managing director for Network Rail’s Wales route, describes how the infrastructure owner will work more collaboratively than e... more >