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ORR tells TOCs to clean up act with handling passenger complaints

The rail regulator has today warned that complaints handling must be improved by TOCs as it was revealed that more than half of customers were not happy with how their complaint about a service was handled.

Although the ORR’s annual customer service report, called ‘Measuring up’, found that customer service overall was getting better, other areas still need to see significant improvement.

In particular, the regulator concluded that while passengers were pleased with the ease of making a complaint and the politeness of staff, 59% were nevertheless dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint and 52% with how their complaint was handled.

It also revealed that the number of complaints rose by 8% to over 500,000 over the past year, and that half (12 out of 24) of TOCs did not provide a full response to 95% of complaints they received within the standard of 20 working days.

There were, however, some positives to take from the survey for operators and passengers. Successful compensation claims were up by around 10 percentage points in the past year, and an audit of companies’ websites showed that passengers were getting better information on how to choose, buy and use tickets. 

On top of that, 12 train companies now guarantee to refund the extra costs to customers who buy a ticket from a machine without realising that a cheaper fare was available for the same journey.

As a result of the report’s findings, the ORR is now supporting the introduction of a Rail Ombudsman to scrutinise companies and ultimately improve the experience of customers using trains.

“ORR is committed to protecting the interests of passengers and ensuring they get the best possible experience – from paying the right price for their ticket and receiving help they need on their trip, to being treated properly should anything go wrong,” said John Larkinson, director of railway markets and economics.

He noted that the industry is improving customer service in some areas, such as compensation for delays, but that the quality of service when dealing with passenger complaints needs to be better.

“This is why we are supporting setting up an Ombudsman and will also continue working with industry to keep offering a better service to passengers,” Larkinson concluded.

Responding to the findings, a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group pointed out: “Working together rail companies are making journeys better and significantly more customers say they’re satisfied.

“We are committed to giving customers the excellence they expect and billions are being invested to support communities across Britain and to improve services including better information, simpler fares and a more accessible railway.”

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