Fares, rail policy and DfT news

20.12.16

ORR pushes for ‘next level’ compensation focus as some TOCs making minimal changes

Some TOCs have displayed more progress than others in making it easier for passengers to claim compensation for delays, the ORR has said – and all companies should now “move to the next level” by boosting the number of channels available for passengers to claim reimbursements.

The national regulator published today its latest assessment of progress since it produced its response to a super-complaint from Which? in February, which showed that around 80% of passengers do not claim compensation because TOCs do not make information available about their rights.

According to today’s report, some companies have been more efficient than others in implementing the ORR’s five standards of good practice for informing passengers. While most have worked well since the first assessment and adapted their websites accordingly, others have made minimal changes.

John Larkinson, the ORR’s director of railway markets and economics, said: “It’s clear the rail industry is committed to making improvements and the majority of train companies have updated their websites, claim forms and claim processes. However, some have only made minimal changes.

“We are calling on all train companies to adopt best practice, increase the number of channels available to claim compensation, advertise compensation rights and make it as easy as possible for passengers to claim.”

For example, in the four months since the report was published, 16 TOCs, including Arriva, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern, have introduced a direct link from their homepage to claim compensation.

On the other hand, Chiltern Railways has not adopted any of the standards apart from a PDF delay claim form on its website. Similarly, Grand Central had failed to implement dedicated paper claims forms, posters or contact cards.

The ORR, which promised greater scrutiny of franchise compensation back in July, also argued that all TOCs need to respond more quickly to compensation requests, which encourages passengers to make a claim. It said its next step would be to raise particular concerns with individual TOCs, and to discuss what more can be done to keep passengers informed about the progress of their claim – as well as the possibility of publishing standard response timescales.

It will also conduct mystery shopper exercises to assess improvements made to staff training and information at stations and on trains, and audit the local plans that each TOC is putting in place to deliver the updated Rail Delivery Group (RDG) Code of Practice on the provision of customer information.

The regulator’s Annual Consumer Report 2017 will include an updated estimate of the ‘compensation gap’ between what passengers are owed and what they receive. Along with the DfT, it will look at using the report to provide more transparency on how well TOCs are performing in this area.

In its response to the ORR’s original report from March, the DfT said last month that it would produce its own assessment of how well franchisees perform in keeping passengers informed of their rights.

Since then, the RDG has also launched a national campaign to make passengers more aware of their rights, and is currently preparing a consistent set of minimum standards for operators to follow in raising awareness of compensation.

An RDG spokesperson said today: “Train companies are raising passengers’ awareness of their compensation rights, making it easier to claim money back and paying out more to delayed passengers – nearly £45million last year.

“Passengers are getting an even better deal with improved rights and new arrangements for getting money back. Train companies already pay compensation in cash, and passengers can now be refunded by the same method they paid to travel if they wish. Improved online claiming means train companies now offer at least two types of cash refund.”

The growing concern about compensation for delays comes as rail punctuality fell to 79.1% last month, with delays being cited as the most common cause for passenger complaints.

But the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has now come into force on rail, entitling passengers to seek statutory redress.

And ‘Delay Repay 15’, where passengers’ entitlement to compensation begins after a delay of 15 minutes instead of 30, was introduced on the troubled GTR network on 11 December.

(Image c. Johnny Green from PA Images)

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