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21.12.15

ORR cornered on delay refunds in Which? super-complaint

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has 90 days to respond to a Which? ‘super-complaint’ calling for an investigation into rail delay refunds.

The consumer organisation is calling for action to make the compensation process easier to understand, after a survey of nearly 7,000 passengers found just one-third of those entitled to delay compensation actually made a claim. Only one-third remembered being told their rights after their last delay experience.

According to Which?, around 47 million passenger journeys were either cancelled or significantly late last year, with most operators making compensation schemes available for delays of over half an hour.

Launching the campaign today (21 December), Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Current proposals to improve compensation for passengers are too far down the track. Even if an automatic compensation system was included in all new franchises from tomorrow, it would take until at least 2025 to cover the whole network.

“Millions of passengers are left out of pocket each year, so train companies must do more to put their passengers first and make rail refunds easier.”

As well as the passenger survey, the organisation also conducted a ‘mystery shop’ with undercover staff at 102 stations asking basic questions on refunds. They were only given a full explanation of the conditions needed to claim refunds in one in five instances.

In six out of ten visits, mystery shoppers left the station unaware of their rights. In around three in five cases, they weren’t told they could request compensation in cash – even after asking it.

The rail regulator said its own research also showed much the same results, with passengers only slightly aware of how and when to claim refunds.

“Passengers are entitled to compensation when they do not receive the service they have paid for. The industry has recently taken positive steps – such as signing up to a code of practice on providing clear information to passengers when they buy rail tickets, which includes their compensation rights,” the ORR said.

“We will be assessing whether more could and should be done for passengers as we investigate this complaint.”

Similarly, the Rail Delivery Group argued that compensation is now more generous and easy to obtain, with a spokesman saying: “The changes giving people the option to receive compensation in cash if they prefer is just one example of our commitment to giving passengers an even better deal.

“Train operators are doing lots more to inform passengers about when they are entitled to claim and how, including more announcements on trains, handing out claim forms or using Twitter and emailing reminders to people who booked online.”

In August, RTM revealed that the amount of cash paid in delay and repay compensations to passengers by most TOCs has more than doubled over the last five years. These claims cover both delayed journeys and discretionary reimbursements after complaints for poor services under the terms of each operator’s ‘passenger charter’.

(Top image c. Johnny Green, PA Images)

Comments

Pedr   22/12/2015 at 16:59

One time we were delayed at Rhyl by a failure of a train, (belonging to another operator) in front of us and an engine had to be brought from Somewhere in England to rescue it. Took ages, and the guard of our train brought us all forms to fill in for a refund. I reckon that the owners of the failed train would have had a lesson in the costs of failing to maintain their stock properly....

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