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Campaigners to ‘press for answers’ about new powers to claim refunds

Passengers will receive better compensation when train journeys are delayed after new measures came into force on 1 October, but campaigners have

The Consumer Rights Act now applies to rail after the government cancelled plans to postpone its introduction in the sector.

Under the terms of the Act, consumers have a right to redress when a service is not provided “with reasonable care and skill”, and information provided to a consumer before making a purchase, whether oral or in writing, is binding where the consumer relies on it.

Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), said: “Too often, passengers pay high fares yet receive overcrowded, uncomfortable and sometimes downright inadequate service. It’s no wonder that so few passengers claim compensation at the moment – it’s poorly publicised and the process is a hassle.”

Etkind added that under the terms of the Act, passengers are now entitled to compensation for poor quality service as well as delays. However, CBT said it was “unclear” how far the Act would apply to train journey quality in practice.

It said an “early test” could be passengers seeking compensation for repeated delays, such as those which have blighted Southern services this year.

Etkind said: “How much compensation will passengers be able to claim when the there is no working toilet on board, when there are no seats available or the promised wifi is not working? We will be working with passengers to press for answers so that more passengers get proper redress when train companies let them down.”

CBT also called for a number of other reforms to the passenger compensation process. It backed rail minister Paul Maynard’s recent suggestion that train companies should inform passengers via on-board announcements when they are entitled to compensation.

The CBT said passengers should receive compensation after a 15 minute delay, following a commitment by the government in last year’s Autumn Statement, instead of the 30 minutes that Maynard proposed.

Last year, consumer rights group Which? made a super-complaint to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) about compensation to passengers for delays. The resulting report found that around 80% of passengers do not claim compensation due to a lack of awareness about their rights.

Separately, National Rail Conditions of Travel came into force, which mean that passengers are entitled to compensation in the form of cash, not vouchers, and where the train operator is at fault, customers are entitled to repayment by the same method by which they paid, unless they prefer an alternative offer.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), said: “Train companies’ compensation arrangements already go beyond what is required under consumer law, and we want to give passengers an even better deal.

“Passengers will be advised clearly of their right to compensation. Every train operator will comply with the Consumer Rights Act, including offering compensation by the method the passenger bought a ticket.”

The RDG said the industry is introducing a number of measures to make claiming compensation easier. These will include a new National Rail Enquiries website giving passengers full information and links to claim forms for every train operator, more social media alerts during disruption informing passengers of what they are entitled to, and more announcements and claim forms handed out on trains.

Furthermore, CBT said passengers using smart tickets or online bookings should receive automatic compensation. It also recommended setting targets for a greater percentage of the delay compensation Network Rail pays to train operators to pass on to passengers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said the Consumer Rights Act was “a welcome evolution”.

(Image c. AdamKR)

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