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Rail Ombudsman launch a ‘wake-up call’ to train companies over complaint services

The first-ever Rail Ombudsman has been launched today, giving rail passengers a free, independent service which will help them claim refunds and compensation by appealing unresolved complaints.

The official body will have the power to investigate and rule on passenger complaints and make decisions which are binding to rail firms, and will be able to award passengers up to £2,500 in compensation.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said the new ombudsman would “make sure passengers are heard and that they get a fair deal when train companies fall short.”

The ORR welcomed the launch of the free and impartial service, which will “provide assurance to all passengers who have a complaint that it will have independent scrutiny.”

It said that this is a “necessary measure” to improve passenger trust and increase satisfaction regarding the complaint handling procedure, and said it would monitor the ombudsman’s progress closely.

Figures from the ORR show that just 28% of people who made a complaint to a train company in 2017-18 were satisfied with the outcome.

The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman will look at passenger cases and weigh up evidence from the dissatisfied passenger and train company before deciding whether compensation, a refund or even an apology is due.

Starting today, passengers can bring complaints to the ombudsman regarding train delays and cancellations, customer service, safety issues, availability and station access, passenger assistance, and discrimination issues.

Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets at Which? said: “The launch of the independent rail ombudsman is a positive step for passengers, who have felt for too long like their complaints are not being taken seriously.

“It should be a wake-up call for train companies to step up and start delivering good customer service when things go wrong. Then passengers will have no need to escalate their complaints.”

In a recent investigation, Which? found that less than half of passengers were satisfied with how their complaints were dealt with by companies, and that 71% felt more negative about their train company following their complaint.

The managing director of the Rail Delivery Group, Jacqueline Starr, said the scheme would bring “even greater confidence that we're doing as much as we can to get to a fair outcome.”

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Image credit -  Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images


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